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.

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