I want to start this off by welcoming back Shirley Linde who joined us last Friday for the first time since her unfortunate accident. We missed you, Shirley.
Besides the very welcome appearance of Shirley, we had another lively, engaging discussion last week. There was an update on the Pinellas County Arts Panel grants award meeting. Apparently it did not go as collaboratively as in years past. It seems the panelists were not given to interactivity with the grant requestors and the process was less than pleasant for the grant seekers. The panel seemed particularly tough on the arts organizations from St. Petersburg. These groups received criticism from the panel for being too St. Petersburg-centric. I'm not sure I would totally agree with that characterization. Looks like there is some room for improvement in this process.
An update was also discussed about the progress, or lack there of, on the Friday Morning Group Concept Paper. It is becoming more and more apparent that private funding will need to be secured before any public funding will be available. Even that is problematic given the current status of tax "reform" in Tallahassee. As many of you are aware, the City of St. Petersburg has already given notice to all the cultural and social service organizations that had previously received city funding that none will be available this year. The impact of these property tax "reforms" is going to have a severe impact on local governments. Once again, the arts are right up there on the chopping block, pretty much first in line.
If you would like to let your state legislators know what you think about this, there are several legislative delegation town hall meetings coming up to discuss this. The first one is this Thursday (May 17) at the Saint Petersburg College Seminole Campus Digitorium building. It will be hosted by State Representative Janet Long and will be from 5 PM to 8 PM. The next one will be May 23 from 6 to 8 PM at the Sunshine Center in downtown St. Pete. That one will be hosted by Representative Bill Heller. And State Senator Charlie Justice will host one on May 31st at the Pinellas Realtors Organization building on Ulmerton Road. I would encourage you all to take this opportunity to let your legislators know how what you think about this matter - whatever you think about it.
And I would encourage you all to take the time to drop in on our Friday Morning Group meetings. We are going to need all your insights and ideas about how to make this a better community for artists - and everyone else - going forward.