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NEA to the Rescue
A lifeline thrown to the Broward Cultural Division
saves 43 arts jobs

by Holly Strawbridge

When the economic bubble burst, arts administrators saw the handwriting on the wall. Attendance at many concerts and benefits sagged and individual and corporate donations began to dry up. Whereas in the past, grants from local government and foundations often made up for lack of funds, that source suffered, too, leaving the future of many local arts organizations in question.

“Everyone lost a percentage of general operating dollars when funding from the Broward Cultural Council was cut,” says Pamella Dearden, executive director of the Gold Coast Jazz Society.

Fortunately, the National Endowment for the Arts stepped in and threw Broward County a lifeline. A grant of $250,000, made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, enabled the Broward Cultural Division to provide one-time rescue grants to selected arts organizations. The dollars were used to preserve 43 staff positions and contracted artists.


Making Education a Priority
With arts education in the schools on the chopping block, local arts organizations provide exposure and training to the arts that schools cannot. The NEA Lifeline grants were invaluable in strengthening educational outreach. The Florida Youth Orchestra (FYO) received funding for a part-time project coordinator for after-school and summer camp and an outreach coordinator that enables FYO musicians to perform at local venues. The Coral Springs Museum of Art received the funds needed to save its director of education position. The Museum of Discovery and Science will use the money to retain its full-time school programs coordinator.

The grant will enable the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, a major provider of visual and performing arts for adults and children, to re-hire a person for its educational staff.

“We are creating programs that build on each other, so children can begin in elementary school to learn art-making skills and continue to take classes through middle and high school to enhance skills and create a portfolio that enables them to apply to art colleges,” explains Susan Rakes, assistant director of education. “We have programs in visual arts, musical theater and drama, and now we will be able to provide classes year around and add music and dance.”

Supporting Artists
In Hollywood, California, wannabe actors may wait tables, but in Hollywood, Florida, and elsewhere in Broward County the NEA grants are helping artists earn a living.

Florida’s Singing Sons Boy choir will use the money to fund part-time and contractual accompanists. Old Dillard Foundation will hire 10 artists and reinstate two concerts that had been cancelled for lack of funds. Likewise, the South Florida Musical Guild will hire eight artists for two major concerts. South Florida Choral Arts will also use the money to pay for an accompanist.

In some cases, the funds will support cultural workers that would otherwise have been lost. The Gold Coast Jazz Society, for example, faced cutting its jazz education programs, potentially denying children the right to learn about their inheritance.

“Jazz is original to America. It is the cultural history of our country. We have to keep the music alive, and the only way to do this is by exposing children to it,” Pamella Dearden says.

Gold Coast Jazz Society keeps this art form alive through two programs, “Jazz Is Elementary” and “Jazz for Wee Ones.” Every year, the organization sends a large jazz band to six to eight low income Title I elementary schools, where it performs two 50-minute programs. With donations dwindling, Dearden feared she would be able to book the program in only three schools. Fortunately, the NEA grant will enable her to send a nine-musician jazz orchestra to 12 schools. The grant will also enable her to continue sending a quartet to afterschool care facilities in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods to introduce youngsters to the art form.

Creating Stronger Arts Organizations
Several of the organizations, plus the Mosaic Theater, will use their grant money to fund administrative positions needed to keep the wheels turning. In other cases, the positions require specific knowledge and training, thereby preventing duties from being filled by other staff or volunteers.

The Stonewall Library & Archives, for example, received support that will enable the group to retain a full-time executive director. As the largest lending library of its kind in the United States, Stonewall collects, preserves and displays materials related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) culture and history and supports related research and educational opportunities.

Nova Southeastern University received funding that will enable the museum to re-hire for the position of chief curator at the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale (MOAFL). As a major museum with more than 6,000 items in its permanent collection and an ongoing program of exhibitions, the position of chief curator is central to its success.

NEA money will enable the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society to retain a full-time collections manager. The person is responsible for cataloging and conserving more than a quarter million photos, artifacts and manuscripts and for planning exhibits in the museum.

“We have custodial responsibility of these historic buildings and archives, which preserve the history of our city, yet we are not a city or county agency. We are an independent organization, and the NEA grant was very helpful to us,” says Interim Director Wil Trower.

NEA funding will also help support a full-time position at ArtServe, an organization serving artists and arts organizations in multiple ways. Its Cooperative Marketing Program in partnership with Broward Cultural Division, which enables arts organizations to advertise for less, was at risk, along with many partnership projects. Fortunately, artists will now be able to rely on ArtServe and the services it offers through 2010.

Although economists say the economy is slowly turning around, it may be several years before arts organizations see an upswing in revenue. There is no doubt that NEA money re-granted through the Broward Cultural Division pulled many organizations back from the brink. It will take every ounce of creativity for these organizations to continue finding ways to fulfill their missions with skeleton staffs and shoestring budgets.

In the meantime, they will go about their business of enriching the lives of countless art, music and theater lovers, helping adults and children hone their artistic skills and exposing the next generation to the joys of painting a picture, dancing a role or acting a part.

Let’s thanks the NEA and Broward County’s Cultural Division for making these achievements possible.

 

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