Culture Builds Florida Has a New Ally

When George Byfield, President of Lakeland-based Comet Group Inc., attended the launch of Culture Builds Florida in Tampa 2011, he came away inspired to create a new type of online publication.

Byfield saw – instantly – an incredible synergy in the mission of Culture Builds Florida with that of the new niche publication he envisioned.

“I came away inspired to create an exciting online magazine that would not be limited by the traditional print publishing model of City, County or Region,” Byfield says. “I envisioned a new type of publication about Florida…connecting people in the arts and culture, travel and leisure, farm and ranch, and nature/wildlife arenas, along with commerce and conservation. We’re calling it Art and Gator. And our goal is to position Florida as the premier arts and outdoor-lifestyle destination for discerning travelers and residents alike.”

Even while still at the launch ceremony, Byfield was already discussing with officials the ways in which his new publication could help Culture Builds Florida meet its objectives.

“Culture Builds Florida was speaking to the exact same audience that we’re aiming for,” Byfield says, “an upscale, influential audience very much involved in both the arts and nature. An audience that realizes there’s so much more to our state than just the great theme parks…and that vibrant cultural and natural amenities play a vital role in our state’s economic growth.”

The arts are big business for Florida. Our state’s diverse cultural offerings attract travelers by the millions to art shows, festivals, special events, and certain types of businesses – energizing the Florida economy for all of us.

Toward that end, Art & Gator (www.artandgator.com) is already a VISIT FLORIDA small-business partner, sharing content and looking into creative ways of enticing travelers to spend a few extra days here.

“More than 65 percent of Florida’s visitors participate in either cultural or nature-based activities while they’re in the Sunshine State,” says Chris Thompson, President and CEO of Visit Florida. “This fact establishes Art & Gator as a key travel planning resource to our visitors. By raising the awareness of these vital market segments, Art & Gator and our partners will serve as a catalyst for economic growth and environmental sustainability.”

Art & Gator is an upscale lifestyle publication, geared toward those who appreciate our state’s cultural institutions and artists, its natural wonders, and the movers and shakers who propel its cultural, sustainable and economic engines.

Initially conceived during the launch of the Culture Builds Florida campaign, the online publication Art & Gator will promote Florida’s diverse cultural offerings to travelers and residents alike. Image used by permission of Art & Gator.

“Our big theme parks are great,” Byfield says, “and they bring people here from all over the world. But we’d like to show discerning travelers and residents that there’s a lot more to our state, as well. And to show them the part that interesting Floridians are playing in enhancing our state’s economic, social, and artistic climates.”

Toward that end, Byfield has assembled a talented core of writers, as well as experienced salespeople who will sell both ad space and special memberships.

Art & Gator is offering a wonderful opportunity for Florida’s cultural organizations to get their messages out…many of which are now overlooked by travelers from outside the state (and sometimes, from inside the state). The site will serve as a dynamic platform to market these organizations. And there are a variety of options to help these organizations publicize themselves to a niche group of travelers…who are looking for exactly what they’re offering.

“We want to be an effective resource for Florida cultural institutions,” Byfield says, “a genuine go-to source for Florida’s authentic cultural and natural travel experiences. And we want to bring them more business from both residents and travelers.”

Byfield has a distinguished background in publishing and tourism marketing, and brings a diverse and integrated approach to the direction of Art & Gator online magazine.

“I understand the challenges facing business and government right now, when it comes to contributing to the arts,” George Byfield says. “My own father refused to support my decision to study art. Where other trades are recognized and valued as “industry,” culture is often viewed as a hobby or a part-time vocation. It’s not necessarily driven by a bottom line, but by passionate people with a vision.

“However,” Byfield continues, “corporations have expanded, people have bought second homes, and families have changed lifestyles because of inspired journeys to cultural or natural destinations. Culture does more than just build Florida – it can sustain Florida’s Quality of Life for generations to come.”

The Division of Cultural Affairs is excited to partner with Art & Gator, which originated with the Culture Builds Florida launch and reinforces our campaign to develop awareness for Florida’s cultural community and the contributions arts and culture make to business and quality of life in our state. We encourage you to check out the publication, inform them about cultural events in your area, follow them on Twitter, and watch for an upcoming interview with Division Director Sandy Shaughnessy about Culture Builds Florida at artandgator.com.

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