The 2019-2020 fiscal year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Established by the Florida Legislature under the Department of State, the Division of Cultural Affairs has supported and promoted Florida’s diverse arts and culture community for 50 years. Since 1976, when the division was granted the authority to administer grants funded by the State of Florida and the National Endowment for the Arts, more than $787 million in grant funding has been distributed to every corner of the state in support of the division’s mission to advance, support, and promote arts and culture to strengthen the economy and quality of life for all Floridians.
Relationships are the cornerstone of any community, and the Division of Cultural Affairs has been lucky to have partnered with hundreds of supporters over its five decades. In this post, we will spotlight just a few of the people who have helped us support and celebrate Florida’s vibrant arts and culture community. We owe thanks not only to these individuals, but to everyone who works to make, support and promote arts and culture in Florida.
First appointed in 2000, Margo Bindhardt served six years on the 15 member Florida Arts Council. During her tenure, she served as chair and vice chair of the council. Bindhardt’s service on the Arts Council made her a favorite among Division of Cultural Affairs staff and constituents because of her willingness to roll up her sleeves and meet any challenge. She was known for the gracious dinners she hosted for visiting Council members and Division staff.
After serving on the Council, she became the founding chair of Citizens for Florida Arts, Inc., the Division’s citizen support organization. Bindhardt was instrumental in the creation of this new organization’s bylaws and attracted influential arts patrons and fundraisers to serve on the board.
While a resident of Miccosukee, Florida she led the Thomasville Cultural Center and the Thomasville Entertainment Foundation, founded the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival and co-founded Florida State University’s annual arts festival Seven Days of Opening Nights. She was also an advocate for local projects such as the development of Tallahassee’s arts corridor Arts on Gaines and contributed to a new facility for the Mickee Faust Club, a local performing group whose mission is access.
Beyond Florida, Bindhardt was active on both national and international stages, leading organizations such as the Great Lakes Region of the Metropolitan Opera of New York, the Canadian Opera Company, the Toronto Arts Council and Arts Gallery of Ontario.
JuDee Pettijohn Dawkins began her career with the Department of State as an OPS employee at the Division of Cultural Affairs in 1976, working with the cultural grants program through 1985, serving as Grants Bureau Chief and section head in the latter years. In 1985, she became Assistant Division Director and remained in that administrative role until 1997.
Following a short period with other state agencies, she returned to the Division of Cultural Affairs as its director in 2001, where she remained until being appointed Deputy Secretary of State overseeing the Divisions of Libraries and Information Services, Historical Resources and Cultural Affairs.
Under her leadership, the Division of Cultural Affairs achieved a number of successes. The grants process was transformed through the consolidation of multiple grant programs into the current model, which includes four major grant programs. She championed the Division’s move to an online grant application and management system, eliminating excess paper applications and the hundreds of physical materials received from applicants and grantees. Dawkins encouraged productive collaborations across Department of State’s Divisions and oversaw the Division’s move to its current home, the historic and beautiful Brokaw-McDougall House in Tallahassee.
Though she received degrees from Ursinus College and Florida State University, Dawkins says that her “real” education came from working at the Department of State and learning as much as possible from staff, as well as from members of the Florida Arts Council, Florida Historical Commission, State Library Council, Florida Folklife Council, Historic Markers Council and other professional boards at the Department of State and Department of Business & Professional Regulation.
Katharine Dickenson has been a community volunteer since 1973 with an emphasis on Historic Preservation and the Arts. She served on and chaired such boards as the Boca Raton Historical Society, the Palm Beach County Historic Preservation Board and the Boca Raton Junior League in early years. She went on to Chair the Florida Historic Preservation Commission in 1988. Since joining Florida’s Council on Arts and Culture, she has served as its chair for three terms. Dickenson is the only Floridian to have chaired both the Historical Commission and the Council on Arts and Culture.
Nationally, Dickenson has served on the Boards of The National Trust for Historic Preservation, The Edith Wharton Home in Lenox, MA, the Robert Todd Lincoln home in Vermont and the Manchester, VT Music Festival as well as The Dorset, VT Theater Festival. Serving as Vice-Chair of the Federal Commission to celebrate St. Augustine’s 450th, Dickenson has been involved with the Mayor and Commission of St Augustine and the Department of the Interior who appointed her in 2010 to promote St. Augustine worldwide. She has been instrumental in the development of the Division of Cultural Affairs’ strategic plans during her tenure on the Council.
Katharine Dickenson resides in Vero Beach with her husband David, an attorney. Of arts and culture, she says they “create soul-changing experiences that unite us as a people, a culture and as a social organism– giving us laughter, tears and pure enjoyment for a full life. In Florida, The Division of Cultural Affairs and The Council on Arts and Culture strive to do this every day, every way for everyone.”
Florida Highwaymen is the collective name given to a small group of African American painters from Ft. Pierce, Florida, who began painting Florida landscapes in the late 1950s.
Through the leadership and creativity of the group’s original member Alfred Hair, the artists shunned traditional methods and painted Florida’s sunsets, waterscapes, marshes and inlets with raw beauty and charm in quick, brightly colored images. They have produced an estimated 200,000 paintings, and sold their creations from the trunks of their cars along Florida’s east coast for as little as $20 each.
In 1995, Sebring gallery owner and art collector Jim Fitch wrote an article for an arts journal in which he described the Fort Pierce-based artists as the “Florida Highwaymen,” named for their tactics of traveling highways I-95 and A1A to sell their artwork from the trunks of their cars. Fitch’s article was soon followed by an article in The New York Times which lauded the newly discovered Florida Highwaymen. Demand for the group’s work soared.
Today, Florida Highwaymen paintings are widely sought by collectors all over the world. Paintings by the Florida Highwaymen are an integral part of the Florida Department of State Art Collection.
Malinda Horton has been the Executive Director of the Florida Association of Museums (FAM) and a valuable partner to the Division of Cultural Affairs since 1995. As not-for-profit professional organization for Florida’s museums and museum professionals, FAM represents and addresses the needs of the museum community, enhancing the ability of museums to serve the public interest. The Association encourages excellence in its members by promoting communication through which its members share information and resources, effect legislation and promote support of museums.
In addition to her regular Executive Director duties, Horton serves as the lobbyist for FAM and takes an active role in advocacy and advocacy training. She also serves as a consultant for several other non-profit organizations including the Florida Art Museum Directors Association, the Florida Association of Public Art Professionals and Apalachee Land Conservancy. She currently serves as the Board Chair for the Tallahassee Museum and the Treasurer for the Coalition of State Museum Associations. Her contributions to the work of the Division of Cultural Affairs includes serving on numerous committees, grants panels and other partnerships.
Sherron Long has been involved in arts and culture for 40-plus years and continues to manage two statewide service organizations: the Florida Professional Theatres Association, which she founded in 1981 and the Florida Cultural Alliance, Florida’s primary arts advocacy organization which she co-founded in 1983. That same year, she developed the guidelines for and managed the first-ever grants program for the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County’s Tourist Development Cultural Activities Program and also co-hosted and co-produced a weekly television show about the arts called Centerstage for Palm Beach County’s local PBS station. Long worked at the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs and Florida Council on Arts and Culture from 1978 to 1983, where she created and managed the State Touring Program, initiated the first statewide Florida Dance Association summer dance festival and developed the first statewide conferences for local arts agencies, sponsors and presenters. She remains involved with statewide partnerships with the Florida Alliance for Arts Education to advance arts education and has also served as a former president of this statewide service organization. A valuable partner and advisor to the Division of Cultural Affairs, Sherron Long continues to work tirelessly in support of Florida’s arts and culture community.
Former vice-chair of the Florida Council on Arts and Culture John Whitney Payson may well have been Florida’s fiercest advocate for arts and culture.
A successful gallerist and collector, he established the Joan Whitney and Charles Shipman Payson Charitable Foundation in 1987. The Foundation gave support to many arts and cultural institutions nationwide. Payson’s love of the arts led him to serve on a number of boards, including the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME, the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, Williamstown, MA and the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts at the Kennedy Center. He was involved with the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture for many years and he served as Chair of the Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1988.
In Florida, Payson worked diligently to support and uplift arts and culture. In 2014, Secretary of State Ken Detzner appointed him Ambassador for Florida Arts. He was a member of the Jupiter Island Arts Council and Vice Chair of Citizens for Florida Arts, Inc., the citizen support organization for the Division of Cultural Affairs.
Gaylen Phillips joined the Division of Cultural Affairs in 1990. She took over the State Touring Program in 1991 and led the highly popular roster for the next 20-plus years. Along the way, she developed the Florida Artists and Presenters Network, which provided on the ground training tools for touring artists and the presenters who book them. This program served thousands of students in rural and underserved counties and over its lifetime has funded music, dance and theatre activities in all 67 counties. After helping to establish the Sister State relationship between Florida and Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture in 1995, she developed the first Department of State Sister Cities Grant Program in 2001. This partnership has brought distinguished Japanese artists to Florida for exhibitions, performances and workshops. In 2009, Phillips developed the Florida Recovery Grant in response to the federal government’s allocation of arts funding as a result of a downturn in the economy. When the state touring program ended in 2015, Gaylen developed another Arts in Education category to continue to provide support for Florida’s touring performing artists called Artist Performances on Tour.
Phillips beautifully described the Division’s importance and her own experience when she said, “I have met many wonderful arts and cultural people across this state. I have listened to their stories and seen their work. I have understood how the DCA makes a difference across all communities and how much more needs to be done. I can draw a line between the work we do in our office to the local arts activity and then celebrate its success through the evidence of impact numbers, support letters, fundraising, community awareness and local government support. The arts really do lift spirits, educate, inform, support health and well-being and contribute to the economy.”
Christopher Still is a native Floridian who graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and continued his studies with courses in human anatomy at Jefferson Medical School and an apprenticeship in traditional painting techniques in Florence, Italy.
His paintings can be found in museums and private collections including the Governor’s Mansion of Florida and the Smithsonian Institution. In the Tampa Bay Area, his work can be seen at the St. Petersburg City Hall, Tampa International Airport, Sandpearl Resort, Opal Sands Resort and Ruth Eckerd Hall.
Of special note are ten murals installed in the Florida House of Representatives in which the artist depicts Florida’s historic and natural beauty. Still was commissioned in 1999 to complete ten murals featuring the history of the state. Additionally, he created the Viva Florida poster commemorating Florida’s 500th anniversary and painted the official portrait of Governor Lawton Chiles. A longtime friend of the Division of Cultural Affairs, Still has been generous with both his time and his artwork, granting the Division permission to use his paintings for multiple community art projects and educational publications. He was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2010 and is the Artist in Residence for the Florida Legislature.