Nine Arts Groups Split $234,000 City Allocation

A pot of nearly a quarter of a million dollars in city money that supports the arts will be divided among the same nine organizations that have received it in recent years, the City Commission agreed this week. But other arts groups will get a chance to plead their case next year under a new grant program as the pot expands slightly.

A $234,072 allocation from the city’s general fund will be divided in roughly the same amounts as it has in recent years:

Next year, the process will be opened to new organizations as the city increases its arts allocation to $250,000.

Arts organizations will be able to submit applications, possibly by March, to the Mayor’s Council on the Arts, council Chair Leslie Chambers said.

The council makes recommendations on arts funding to the City Commission’s Community Development Committee, which in turn makes recommendations to the full City Commission. On Monday, the commission unanimously approved this year’s arts allocations.

The city increased the arts portion of its budget based in part on a 2014 study of the economic impact of Lakeland’s largest arts groups, Chambers said. That study, conducted by Florida Southern College MBA students under the guidance of Dr. Larry Ross, concluded the arts organizations contribute $26.4 million to the local economy each year and that each dollar spent by arts organizations yields $3.38 in economic impact.

The Mayor’s Council on the Arts is devising a grant application process with the volunteer help of Holly Parrish, who consults with non-profit organizations through her business, PH Solutions, Chambers said.

The council’s goal is to bring more accountability to arts funding, Chambers said. Organizations will be asked to justify how funds will benefit the community during the grant application process and then will need to show the money was spent as they said it would be, she said.