Arts and culture help fuel our state’s economy — it’s that simple. As you may or may not know, Florida lawmakers slashed arts funding this year by nearly 90%. It is a big hit for all of us. Nonprofit arts organizations are already feeling the pressure as they compete for donor dollars and the funding cut adds another challenge. The impact of the arts budget reductions are resonating statewide. This past spring the Florida legislature approved a state budget of $88.7 billion while at the same time reducing their support of arts and culture by 99%! In 2017, the state budget allowed $25 million for the arts grants, already down from 2015′s fully-funded budget of $43 million. Sadly, the 2018 state budget of $88.7 billion slashed its allocation for cultural funding to $2.6 million.
Each year, just under 500 organizations participate in a competitive peer review grant process to qualify for Florida Division of Cultural Affairs’ funds. This year, 489 organizations will split this drastically reduced fund. Currently, Florida is now 49th in state funding for the arts which is just pathetic.
How has this impacted the budget for Pensacola Opera? Pensacola Opera’s recommended funding was $103,236.00 – yet we will receive only $6,703. With average funding of $62,267 over the past four years, this represents a reduction of $55,564.
What are we doing to make up for this decrease in funding? With ticket sales covering only 25% of our operating costs, every dollar we receive is an essential component of our financial success. In addition to our annual fundraising events, Jukebox Gala and Operazzi Ball, we have added a couple of extra fundraising events to our season. The first being a fashion show called Glitz & Glam. This luncheon fashion show will take place on December 4th at Skopelos at New World featuring celebrity models in holiday attire, evening gowns, and cocktail dresses with a pop-up vendor shopping area before the show. Pensacola Opera will also host Bourbon & Blues event on November 15th at the Pensacola Opera Center. The evening will feature the 2018-19 Artists in Residence singing the blues while being educated and enjoying bourbon tastings by Old Hickory Whiskey Bar’s Darren Campbell. Both fundraisers will help support the many artistic and educational programs offered throughout the year.
What can we do now? We need to begin to lobby next year’s legislature to restore arts funding to a level that reflects the value of the arts in our state. Meanwhile, we urgently need to make up the difference in this year’s budget. We rely on our generous donors, supporters, and sponsors now more than ever. The arts are a huge return for a small investment. I’m proud to live in a city that values the arts and culture and supports them in so many ways. You do not have to be a fan of opera to be a fan of what opera does for Northwest Florida and our community. We need your support.