Why the Arts Matter in South Florida


Written by:  Michael Spring, Chair, South Florida Cultural Consortium and Director, Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs

Across South Florida, it is indisputable that the arts are transforming our region into one of the most dynamic and diverse new cultural centers in the hemisphere.  Festivals and special arts events are attracting visitors to our communities; our downtowns are being re-energized with major performing arts centers and museums; and forgotten neighborhoods are being revitalized by pioneering artists and intrepid, grassroots arts groups. The arts matter throughout South Florida because they are earning us an international reputation as a major, new cultural center.  Consequently, our cities now have a creative, competitive edge in attracting businesses and tourism and improving the lives of our families and kids.

The phenomenal growth of the arts in South Florida over the past twenty-five years is unparalleled anywhere in the nation.  Non-profit arts groups and artists in our region are a work force of more than 45,000 employees and have an impact on the economy documented in the billions of dollars. Each of the counties across our region has invested significant public and private resources in the arts. A lesser known fact is that we have had a regional strategy for cultural development.

Twenty-five years ago, we created the South Florida Cultural Consortium, an alliance of the local arts agencies of Broward, Martin, Monroe, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.  The Consortium’s mission is to develop cultural excellence and accessibility through collaboration among our counties.

Together, our arts agencies share strategies from the great cultural work in each of our communities. For example, our Consortium supports the Theater League of South Florida and its annual Carbonell awards.  These awards give visibility to the outstanding theater being presented in South Florida and encourage audiences to transcend county lines and attend great productions anywhere within a reasonable commute.

In addition, the Consortium pools resources to initiate joint projects and take advantage of the economies of collaboration.  Together, we manage the South Florida Visual and Media Artists Fellowship program, awarding the best artists from throughout the region significant fellowship awards based solely on the excellence of their work. These artists are featured in an exhibition at a major museum in a different county each year.  Our current, superb fellowship exhibition is on view through October 16th at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood.

Among the most exciting collaborations for the Consortium is our regional commitment to expanding the impact of arts education. National studies demonstrate that kids who participate in the arts score higher on standardized tests and are more likely to graduate from high school. We are developing a regional artists’ certification program that will train more painters, writers, musicians, dancers and other artists to work with teachers on innovative learning strategies.

One of our newest and most far-reaching endeavors is the Consortium’s participation as a key member of the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, resulting in the award of a major $4.25 million U.S. HUD Sustainable Communities planning grant. Deputy HUD Secretary Ron Sims and National Endowment for the Arts Chair Rocco Landesman came to South Florida this January to celebrate our grant and the central role of the arts in “A New Era of Innovative Partnerships for Regional Economic Development.” The Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, HUD, the NEA and the Consortium – including our newest partners in Indian River and St. Lucie counties - all realize how the arts can help create more livable and sustainable communities throughout our region.

Affordable housing made great through the collaboration of architects and public artists; historic buildings and neglected neighborhoods renewed by theater and dance companies; and more students graduating with creative problem-solving skills, ready for the competitive 21st century workforce. Envision a South Florida where artists, cultural organizations and the public and private sectors come together with the full power of our creativity, resourcefulness and determination to make our communities great places to live, work and raise our families. The arts matter, more than ever, throughout South Florida!


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