Monday, January 20, 2020

The Future of Arts and Culture in Orange County: Mayoral Candidate Forum

I went to a Mayoral Candidate Forum at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts (445 South Magnolia Avenue Orlando, FL). The Citizens for Cultural Vitality hosted the evening with the candidates for Orange County Mayor.

Arts leaders and those who care about the future of Central Florida's arts and culture were invited to attend. Conversation with the Candidates took  place in the Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater. The Citizens for Cultural Vitality are an informal group of arts leaders and organizations who are committed to cultivating a thriving arts community in Orange County, the State of Florida, and beyond.

This forum was well organized because members of the arts community seated in the audience each had questions that had been carefully thought out before hand ready to ask each candidate. The candidates were Pete Clarke, Jerry Demings and Rob Panapinto.

I sketched candidate Jerry Demings who went on to become the Orange County Mayor. Since Jerry is our mayor I will print his responses to each question posed hoping that he stays true to his word.

Question: Will you support the creation of a public sector, ongoing dedicated funding stream for the arts that generates at minimum, an additional $5 million per year in funding for arts and culture beyond existing sources?
Demings:  In committing to a dedicated funding source for the arts, I would assemble arts and cultural groups along with the business community to discuss the best return on investment strategy for taxpayers. It is important to note that this is not my sole decision and there would need to be broader conversation with the Orange County Board of Commissioners. However, I support the continuance of the current rate of 3% of the first 4 cents (2% of the total) revenues from Tourist Development Taxes (TDT) currently collected and I would commit to increasing funding for the arts by $5 million from other revenue sources within my discretion as mayor. 

Question: In past years,the county dedicated $1 per capita from the General Fund for arts and culture in Orange County. That has dwindled to nearly .50 per capita in the past decade. Would you support the reinstatement of the $1 per capita in 2019 from the General Fund for arts support?
Demings: Yes, I would commit to funding a total of $1 per capita from any combination of County revenue sources.

Question: Orange County has invested excess TDT funding to recruit and support sporting events. The fund was seeded with $5 million and will be funded annually with an additional $2 million. Would you support an equivalent fund for arts and culture events?
Demings: As you are aware, the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners appointed a Review Committee that will meet this summer during the Budget Work Sessions to make recommendations on a spending plan for excess fees collected through TDT. Monies will be eligible for capital projects. If collections continue to outpace budgeted projections, I would support equivalency funds for the Arts with the Sports Commission.

Demings said that if arts groups can raise money on their own, then he feels they should get tourism dollars to go with it. Demings wants to give the arts and cultural affairs $2 million more tourism tax dollars on top of the $5.6 million it already gets. Demings said $500,000 of it would go to a facility rental and event fund. In May of 2019 he earmarking $42 million for arts and cultural projects.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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