Meet the Florida Council on Arts and Culture: Pat Williams

The Florida Council on Arts and Culture is the 15-member advisory council appointed to advise the Secretary of State regarding cultural grant funding and on matters pertaining to culture in Florida.

Appointments to the Council are determined by the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House, in consultation with the Secretary of State. The Governor manages seven seats that serve four-year terms. The President and Speaker manage four seats each, with terms of two years. The appointments are based on geographic representation, as well as demonstrated history of community service in the arts and culture.

In this bi-monthly series, we will introduce you to each member of the council and share their thoughts on the role of arts and culture in the state of Florida. This month, we chatted with Pat Williams. Williams was appointed to the council in 2017 by former President of the Senate Joe Negron. 

Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA): Tell us a little bit about yourself

Williams: Art: I study it, I travel to see it, I buy it and though I never did make any of note myself, I cannot imagine life without it. I brought my love of art with me when I moved to Stuart, Florida 22 years ago from Chicago, leaving behind cold winters and the beloved Art Institute. 

Soon after coming to Florida I was tapped to write a weekly column for the Palm Beach Post and then, in 2004, I took on the role of founding editor of Luminaries, Treasure Coast Newspapers’ weekly magazine covering local non-profits and charities. It was a chance to design and edit new weekly publication under the Scripps brand for a couple of years. The next adventure started when I was recruited to join the legendary Boston based PR firm Regan Communications. It was there where I earned any serious PR chops I have today. I served as Vice-President of Florida operations.   After a few years there, I hung out my shingle and opened Pat Williams & Associates, fearing the phone would never ring. We had four clients the first week.

From day one, the firm specialized in breakthrough campaigns built around my mantra: if it’s not first, best or different, then it’s not news. We represented leaders in business, law, finance, bio-medical research, education, philanthropy and the arts, and gathered a few awards along the way.

My zeal for art got rolling in the 1950s when the good Sisters of St. Joseph devoted a full 30 minutes every other Friday to giving us art lessons which meant copying a picture.   The process did not set me on fire, but those pictures that were supposed to inspire us sure did. Surrounded by art at home, I grew up knowing art was as essential to everyday life as knives and forks. I went on to get my degree in English and Anthropology and took most of my electives in art history.

In Martin County, I served on the boards of The Elliott Museum, The Pine School, The Arts Council of Martin County and Woman’s Club of Stuart, where I was president for two years. I joined Impact 100 Martin and Women Supporting the Arts as a founding member. Each organization involved the arts in some way that intrigued me.

For pure joy, I like working with creative people on projects with a steep learning curve that involves risk. To feed that beast, I produced a documentary, “Jane Davis Doggett: Wayfinder in the Jet Age,” two years ago.  It got picked up by PBS and then nominated for an Emmy and is now in syndication. Working with immensely talented people on the film is probably the closest I have come to understanding why artists crave the creative process.

DCA: What do you think of when you hear “Culture Builds Florida”?

Williams: Culture Builds Florida tells me the third most populated state in the nation understands the role culture plays in the life of great nations and great states. Lyndon Johnson said this when the National Endowment for the Arts was funded in 1965, “It is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the vision which guides us as a nation. Art is a nation’s most precious heritage.”

DCA: Why are the arts and culture important to our state?

Williams: Three reasons: the arts are a proven economic engine; they are powerful force to enrich the lives residents and visitors; and they provide a universal language that creates connection and understanding among people from different backgrounds.

DCA: For you, what is the most inspiring part about working in the arts?

Williams: When I see the hard evidence that thriving arts communities become a centerpiece of education, entertainment and economic growth in towns and cities across Florida.

DCA: What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture?

Williams: I would like to see the arts more accessible to people in every county in Florida, not just in the population centers.

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