Spotlight On: Arts in Education and Starry Night Studio

by Tim Storhoff

Last week was National Arts in Education Week, which was established in 2010 by the House of Representatives with a resolution stating:

Arts education, comprising a rich array of disciplines including dance, music, theatre, media arts, literature, design, and visual arts, is a core academic subject and an essential element of a complete and balanced education for all students.

To coincide with National Arts in Education Week and the beginning of a new school year, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs installed a new art exhibition in the lobby of the R.A. Gray Building in Tallahassee entitled “Growing Tall Through Arts Education: Budding Young Local Artists.” This exhibition features a series of Sunflower Paintings created by students from Starry Night Studio in Tallahassee, owned by art instructor Kathleen R. Carter.

"Growing Tall Through Arts Education" an exhibition from the Division of Cultural Affairs currently showing in the RA Gray Building in Tallahassee

“Growing Tall Through Arts Education” an exhibition currently showing in the RA Gray Building in Tallahassee.

Starry Night Studio offers individual and group art classes for children and adults. For this group exhibition, some of Kathleen’s younger students produced individual sunflower paintings with acrylic paint, using a limited palette and similar size canvases to unite the installation. The long narrow canvas size was purposefully chosen to suggest the feeling of a field of tall sunflowers. Students studied pictures and paintings of different sunflowers, then individually painted their own interpretation creating the varied depictions seen in the exhibition.

The majority of the classes at Starry Night focus on painting in acrylic, but other media is also taught through classes and individualized instruction. In order to focus on the development of each student, the class sizes are limited to five students at a time. Students learn classic academic methods of art including color theory, composition, brushwork, and more.

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Kathleen Carter working with a student on his painting at Starry Night Studio. Photo submitted and used with permission of Morgan Lewis.

“Art education is important, ultimately, because it provides unlimited opportunities for teachers to promote a student’s use of higher order thinking skills. In the arts disciplines, students are challenged and encouraged to take risks, be self-reliant, then find their own solution to a problem. Allowing students to explore many solutions to one problem promotes the ability to think creatively,” Kathleen said. “The arts are not only essential in the classroom, but to our society as a whole. I remind students and future teachers to think about Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein if they should question the importance of promoting creativity through art education in the classroom.”

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A student working on her Sunflower Painting at the Starry Night Studio last month. Photo submitted and used with permission of Kathleen Carter.

Kathleen started studying with a professional artist from age 12 to 18 in Dothan, Alabama then majored in Art with a concentration in painting at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. She attended Florida State University where she received a Master’s in Art Education and continues her education through workshops at the Ringling School of Art and Design and studying with other professional artists. Kathleen has taught private lessons all of her adult life but officially opened Starry Night Studio four years ago. She has taught all ages, from Pre-K through college and currently works as an adjunct instructor in the elementary education program for Flagler College in Tallahassee. Kathleen works in oil on her own projects and commissions. In her work she experiments with all styles of art, from realistic to abstract.

“As an artist and art teacher, I think it is extremely important to use art as connection, connecting people to their own ideas and to each other. Besides teaching at my studio I enjoy large collaborative projects with various populations in the community. I am actively involved in volunteer projects working with different organizations. These include Boystown, Traumatic Brain Injury Association of Florida, The Tallahassee Senior Center, The National Guard, Be The Solution, Inc., local elementary schools and businesses,” she said.

“I think it is extremely important to make art accessible to all. So my mission is always to promote art and other artists in any way I can. I have shown my Starry Night students’ work at Signature Gallery, Narcissus, Purple Martin Nurseries, Connie’s Hams,That’s Mine Monogramming,  Anthony’s Bar and Grill, Maclay School Pre-K, The Chameleon Tween Boutique, Lofty Pursuits and we will have an exhibit at Sage Restaurant in December.”

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Students comparing and adding finishing touches to their sunflower paintings. Photo submitted and used with permission of Kathleen Carter.

A student working on a painting at the Starry Night Studio. Photo submitted and used with permission of Kathleen Carter.

A student working on a painting at the Starry Night Studio. Photo submitted and used with permission of Kathleen Carter.

Kathleen chose sunflowers as the theme for this exhibition because of the associations they have with the artist Vincent Van Gogh and the feelings of happiness the bright flowers can evoke. Just recently, Tallahassee has adopted the sunflower for inclusion with the “Talla-Happy” marketing campaign. Sunflowers also reflect the importance of arts education. As young students, the exposure to artistic disciplines like dance, music, theatre, media arts, literature, design, and visual arts plants a seed of creativity that can positively impact all future pursuits. And in addition to helping them in other subjects, the arts also make them more curious, engaged, and well-rounded citizens. As the economy moves forward, creativity through training in the arts will be a key element to Florida’s future success.

While National Art in Education Week may be over, artists and teachers like Kathleen understand that teaching the arts is a year-round passion. The Division of Cultural Affairs supports the view that the arts build cultural understanding, mutual respect, and strong communities, and supports arts and culture as an integral part of education and lifelong learning for all Floridians.

Learn more about arts education at the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs Arts in Education page. You can find Starry Night Studio on Facebook or contact Kathleen Carter at “Growing Tall Through Arts Education: Budding Young Local Artists” will be on display in the R.A. Gray Building through the end of September.

Spotlight On: Grant Season at the Division of Cultural Affairs

by Tim Storhoff

sizedcbf-dca-colorSummer is an extremely busy time here at the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, particularly with all the activities related to our grant programs. We have grant periods beginning and ending with the state’s fiscal year, which starts on July 1. This means that between June and September of every year we are actively working with three years of grants: the year that just ended, the year that is just getting started, and the next year (currently in the application review stage). These grants are an extremely important part of what we do, and we know that many arts and culture organizations from across the state depend on them to keep their programs up and running. Therefore I wanted to give you some insight into what’s going on and how we keep these grants moving and on track.

2012-2013: Finishing Up and Closing Out

The official period for 2012-2013 grants ended on June 30. There were 314 total grants given to organizations in 45 Florida counties for a total of $8,868,534. This amount included a $5 million appropriation by the state legislature for General Program Support and approximately $3.9 million for Cultural Facilities (no money was appropriated in 2012-2013 for Specific Cultural Projects). For a full record of awards by county, take a look at this list.

After organizations with General Program Support grants finish up their June events, they have until July 30 to fill out their final reports online. It typically takes Sarah, Maureen, and I (the program managers for these grants) until sometime in the fall to read through everything, but it’s great to be reminded of all the wonderful activities that these grants made possible. These reports allow us to see specifically how all the grant money was used and what overall impact it had in terms of individuals from the the community who participated. In addition to getting overall numbers, we’re interested in the number of youth, elders, and artists that took part in events throughout the year. While we often stress the economic impact of the arts with Culture Builds Florida, these participation numbers help show the significance of the arts in a way that goes beyond dollars and cents. The arts create important social connections between people when they attend performances, visit museums, and perhaps most importantly, collaborate to create art together.

Some of the organizations and events funded with 2012-2013 DCA grants.

Some of the organizations and events funded with 2012-2013 DCA grants.

2013-2014: Getting Started (or at least trying to)

With the previous year’s grants ending on June 30, the current year’s grant period is scheduled to begin right away on July 1. Organizations applied for 2013-2014 grants in spring 2012. After panel meetings, eligible scores were sent to the Florida Legislature via the Department of State’s Legislative Budget Request. The Legislature appropriated $5 million for General Program Support, fully funded Specific Cultural Projects with $830,523 and funded Cultural Facilities for $3,328,000. Along with Fast Track and State Touring grants, the state totals came to 351 grants in 47 counties for $9,350,322. For a full record of awards by county, take a look at this list.

Contracts for this year’s grants typically would have been mailed out in June so payments could be processed on July 1. However, a new bill passed by the 2013 Florida Legislature (HB 5401), requires that all contracts include new elements and go through a new approval process. As one of the first state agencies to deal with these new requirements, we’ve been proactive in collecting all the required information from each grantee for insertion into the contracts. Now we’re just waiting for approval to start sending out payments. In the end this bill will provide a useful resource to Florida’s taxpayers. They’ll be able to log onto a website and see exactly where state dollars are going and what they’re being spent on. After signing the bill, Governor Scott applauded the transparency it will provide, saying, “As taxpayers, we deserve to know if we are getting a return on investment for our money.” We’re confident that through arts and culture, Floridians are getting a positive return on investment as the economic impact of the arts is clear and show that Culture Builds Florida. We just wish it didn’t create a delay in getting funds out to our grantees!

2014-2015: Looking Ahead and Panels, Panels, Panels!

In addition to dealing with grants that have just ended and are just starting, we’re spending a lot of time reviewing applications and preparing panel meetings for 2014-2015 grants. Applications were submitted on June 1 or June 15 depending on the program, and we received a total of 322 applications for General Program Support, 61 for Specific Cultural Projects, 29 for Cultural Facilities, and 169 for Individual Artist Fellowships. We’ve been busy going through and checking each application for eligibility and making sure that everything is in order to send it on to the panels. So far 125 panelists have been officially appointed for the 22 different panels that will take place between late August and early October, and additional panelists have yet to be appointed. Panelists serve on a volunteer basis and must be practicing artists or professionals who specialize in the area of the panels they serve on, and we are extremely grateful for the time they donate to this process. For the full grant panel schedule, check out our calendar.

Our file room is filled with stacks of support materials that were mailed in as part of applications.

Our file room is filled with stacks of support materials that were mailed in as part of applications.

After applications are scored, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture sends panel recommendations to the Secretary of State who then includes them with a request to the Legislature. In spring 2014 the Florida Legislature will make funding decisions and next summer this process will start all over again as organizations start their 2014-2015 grant period.

As you can see, this isn’t just a busy time for the DCA but for current grantees as well. As soon as they finish their application they need to start working on their final report while also filling out the required documentation for the grant that’s just starting. It can be a lot of work keeping everything straight while juggling three years worth of grants, and we’re rarely able to grant as much money as we’d like to Florida’s many deserving organizations. However, the end result is worth every document filed and phone call made because we believe that arts and culture are essential to the quality of life for all Floridians. The events funded through these grants stimulate tourism and enrich our communities. The arts provide jobs, bring people together, and remind us that Florida is a special place to live and work. 

If you have any questions about our grants, please contact a member of our program staff, and remember to let your community leaders and legislators know about the impact these grants have in your community so that we can continue to increase our support for Florida arts and culture.

Spotlight On: The Future of Arts and Culture Districts in Florida

by Bob Evans

I might dispute the claim that a river is the only feature missing from Tallahassee, but I won’t dispute that Johnny Cash lyrics always make a salient point. In a recent Emerging Leaders Blog Salon post at the Americans for the Arts ARTSblog, “Another Wide River to Cross: Incentivizing an Arts District in Tallahassee,” my colleague, Tim Storhoff, gives some excellent commentary as to why a centralized arts district can be a defining factor in the overall health of a city. The truth is that these arts and culture districts provide a community with a meaningful sense of place and purpose, the likes of which cannot be easily replicated.

Map of the Bradenton Riverwalk from

At the behest of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, I’ve done some research on the subject of arts and culture districts. I found that these areas, intended to create a “critical mass” of places for cultural consumption, have 4 major outcomes:

  • Attracting artists and cultural enterprises
  • Fostering cultural development
  • Encouraging economic growth
  • Fulfilling community needs – both rural and urban

These outcomes are condensed from the National Association of State Arts Agencies Policy Brief on State Cultural Districts, which naturally also defines the state’s roles.  Currently, 12 states have enacted legislation for arts and cultural districts, but Florida is not among their ranks. Overall, I feel like the recognition, facilitation, and cultivation of these districts by the state is the most crucial part of the process.

Originally, I was unclear if the catalyst of these districts came from a grassroots or local effort or from the state; was it a top-down or bottom-up approach? Through my research, I discovered it was more of a growth from a younger program to an older program, where the criteria are established first, and grants, funding, and tax incentives are added later. The current models in states like Texas and Maryland support this.

Maryland is especially receptive to these districts, and has provided admissions and amusement tax exemption, income tax credit, and property tax credit for these districts, the most of any state. The benefits of these districts are astounding. Towson University conducted an economic impact study of these arts districts in Maryland, and found that “an estimated 1,621 jobs, $147.3 million in state GDP, and $49.8 million in wages were supported on average annually between 2008 and 2010.”

Florida has some excellent examples of arts and culture districts, from the Bradenton Riverwalk, to the Tampa River Arts and Channel Districts, Jacksonville’s CoRK District, Miami’s Design District, and on. But as of right now, there are no local or state systems to provide a forum for communication, nor are there direct tax incentives for these areas. If Tim’s dream comes true, there will be a vibrant district right in the middle of Tallahassee, and, as he theorizes, “If Florida’s policy makers can experience the benefits of an arts district firsthand, perhaps a statewide system can be implemented.”

Right now, it’s hard for anyone to see long term benefits of giving tax breaks, especially to relatively new programs. It’s going to take time, and we need to be cautious, which is exactly why states like Texas have adopted the certification-only approach without incentives. It’s a great way to test the efficacy of the program. But, as for the future, I’ll just have to defer back to Mr. Cash: “I don’t know. I can’t say. I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.

Art Talk: Division Staff Member Gaylen Phillips

by Ashley Kerns, Florida State University School of Theatre

Gaylen Phillips first hit the boards of a stage growing up in Jacksonville, Florida. “I did my first play when I was ten years old, and I haven’t stopped since,” says Phillips, as she prepared for her role as Jeannette Burmeister in the Florida State University School of Theatre’s performance of The Full Monty.

Dr. Gaylen Phillips

Phillips’ theatre career brought her to Florida State more than twenty years ago when she received her PhD from the School of Theatre. “I didn’t do any performing when I was getting my doctorate because I didn’t have time. Working on my PhD was the hardest thing I have ever done.” Through the years, however, Phillips has hit the FSU stage periodically to take in the energy of the student-driven environment. “I have performed several times at FSU, including Pippin and The Fifth of July. This is tremendous training for these kids. It is a special program with really high standards, which I think is evident when people from the community support it so much. They know that you’re going to get a good production.”

Phillips’ involvement in the world of the arts extends far beyond her roles on stage. She serves as the Associate Director of Arts Resources and Services for the Division of Cultural Affairs at the Florida Department of State, where she fosters the arts in Florida through grant, information, and education programs. “I never imagined that I’d end up in a government arts job but it is exciting. Over the years I’ve come to see the necessity of government funding for the arts. At the state level one of our main goals is to provide equal access to the arts. From whenever you’re born to whenever you die, we’re all over the place. The arts are involved in so much that we do that we don’t even think about it,” Phillips says with a smile. Her work at the Department of State has helped lead to arts exposure for millions of people through the years, specifically to students in grades k-12. Since opening in 1979, the State Touring Program (Florida Arts on Tour), which Phillips heads, has served over 4 million people.

When asked about the greatest challenge facing the arts today, Phillips cleverly notes that the economy isn’t necessarily the only roadblock, but that people feeling like the arts aren’t accessible to them is something that needs to be addressed. “Of course financing is a big thing but that is so obvious. It is interesting to get people to stop and think about how the arts impact their daily lives. I think if they did that they would not feel excluded. People say to me ‘well I don’t have anything to do with the arts’ and I say to them, “do you sing in your church choir?  Do you knit afghans, do you do embroidery? Do you drive a car? Someone had to design that car. There are all sorts of things that impact us. It’s broad, it is everywhere and I think that message is a hard one to convey. It’s not just about going to the theatre, although you really need to and you should, it is about everything.”

That enthusiasm for the presence of art everywhere is what brings Phillips back to FSU to share her joy with students. “These kids are just so wonderful and wild, I love listening to them. When I have the opportunity to come back to FSU and perform, it is just a dream. Everybody knows and does what they are supposed to do. It is the closest to a professional theatre and it is an amazing opportunity for these kids. Everybody is held to a high standard – these kids know it and it is a marvelous training ground for them. I wish them all luck.” Phillips says that part of what FSU (and all arts exposure) provides is the opportunity to become part of the larger world, “We cannot create kids that are so narrowly educated that then they become narrowly engaged in society as they grow up. You need to be a whole person; you need to be happy and healthy, you need to be able to contribute to society.” Nobody lives that philosophy as enthusiastically as Phillips. If all the world’s a stage then the many parts that she plays come together seamlessly, shining a very bright spotlight on all that the arts can do.

Postcard from Tampa: Culture Builds Florida Conference

by Jennifer Hoesing

The Culture Builds Florida Conference participants in the Jaeb Theatre at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Sandy Shaughnessy.

The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts was the setting for Tuesday’s official launch of the Culture Builds Florida campaign. Our agency, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, planned a day-long conference to celebrate the successes of arts and culture, and to introduce the new Culture Builds Florida initiative. More than 200 arts and cultural administrators, artists, business representatives and cultural patrons joined us for the day’s events.

The day began with remarks from Florida’s Secretary of State and Chief Cultural Officer, Kurt S. Browning. Secretary Browning mentioned some of the tangible benefits arts and culture bring to Florida, like the 88,000 full time equivalent jobs non-profit arts and culture generated annually, the $3 billion of direct economic activity spurred by the same organizations and impressive statistics about out-of-state cultural tourists, who stay longer and spend more than other travelers.

We heard from three individuals who are making contributions to Florida’s arts and cultural community. The first was Fran Powers, executive director of Powerstories Theatre, whose organizations has served over 10,000 people in the past 12 years. Gus Nick Paras, AIA architect, spoke about the ways architecture contributes to Florida’s cultural landscape. Carol Mickett and Robert Stackhouse called on the audience to think of artists as small businesses, contributing to the economy and leading business innovation.

After a short break, Senator Nancy Detert, Representative Rich Glorioso and Representative Seth McKeel presented the group with tips for increasing advocacy success. The elected officials urged those present to educate their elected officials about arts and culture, and to shout from the mountain tops the value of arts and culture. The seventy-five minute session, which included time for questions and answers, was moderated by Malinda Horton, executive director of the Florida Association of Museums.

After a lunch break, the learning sessions resumed with sessions on social media and partnerships. The afternoon concluded with keynote remarks from Randy Cohen, Vice President for Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts. Mr. Cohen spoke about the economic impact of arts, culture and creative industries.

There has never been a more important time for our industry to speak about the benefits of arts and culture. Arts and culture can lead us to prosperity. They can and will make a difference. As our campaign moves ahead, we aim to show the ways arts and culture bring out the best in each of Florida’s 67 counties. We will tell the story loudly and proudly: Culture Builds Florida.

Tuesday’s conference was just the start.