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Miser City: Palm Coast’s Support for The Arts Is 27 Cents Per Year Per Resident

| December 5, 2011

Rembrandt's 'Man Weighing Gold.'

Palm Coast City Council member Bill Lewis doesn’t often speak up in meetings. He did in this case. “As the lone wolf here in terms of cultural arts and that sort of thing, I’ve been complaining for years now as you know, that the amount that we give in this city, for 75,000 people, the amount that we give for cultural arts is really a shame,” he said last week.

The parks and recreations director had just briefed the council on the year’s cultural grants. There were 12 applicants seeking $40,000. There were 11 awards totaling $20,000, the amount the council had budgeted last summer. It’s half the amount budgeted in 2007. “I think $20,000 for a city of 75,000 is really an embarrassment to me,” Lewis said. The total grant amount works out to less than 27 cents per person for the year. (Comparatively speaking, a few weeks ago the city approved a project worth more than three times as much–$67,000–to pave a road extension at the Indian Trails Sports Complex.)

The council will be approving the grants on Tuesday. Judging from recent history, it’s not likely that cultural groups will make much noise before the council: they rarely appear to plead their case. Lewis said they don’t make their case loudly enough. But by the time the grant applications are distributed, it’s already a done deal: the council sets its arts budget during a single workshop in summer, when the public is not allowed to speak. It approves that budget wholesale at a subsequent meeting. The city’s leisure services committee vets the grants and offers cultural organizations a chance to weigh in, but only within the confines of the amounts already set by the council. The council itself has never made a point of inviting cultural organizations to discuss the place of arts and culture in town in the context of a council meeting, as it routinely does, say, when it involves other economic development or revitalization matters, sending a clear signal: culture and the arts are not a priority to this council.

“As it grows, I think there’s no way they can’t see that this town is well on its way to becoming a little cultural gem of a community, but I think we have a lot more to do to show them,” says JJ Graham, owner of Hollingsworth Gallery, the fast-growing arts hub at City Marketplace that includes galleries, artist studios, art classes and is now home to the fledgling Palm Coast Repertory Theatre. Graham was not a direct applicant to a grant, though one of the grants that was approved is tied to an exhibit that will show at Hollingsworth which, ironically, is literally sandwiched between the city’s offices. “I have faith, I have faith that they’re going to catch on. They would be stupid not to.”

bill lewis palm coast city council member

Bill Lewis. (© FlaglerLive)

Council members chalk up the stinginess to harder times. “I’ve never been a person that thought that municipalities should dig deep for the cultural arts,” Bill McGuire, one of the two newest members of the council, said. “I enjoy the cultural arts, I welcome the cultural arts, but I think cultural arts need to be more self-sustaining. When you get something given to you, how valuable is it? I think most of the cultural arts that are successful over the years—in St. Louis I belonged to the Classical Guitar Society, I loved it, I paid them money out of my pocket, I enjoyed their concerts, and as far as I know the city of St. Louis gave them zip.”

The 11 organizations that qualified for grants are mostly organizations that have qualified in the past, such as the African-American Cultural Society, the Choral Arts Society, the Flagler Auditorium, the Hispanic American Club and Trinity Presbyterian Church (for its art and music program), all of which qualified for $1,470 each. The Gargiulo Art Foundation qualified for $2,450 for an event that will combine an art exhibit at the Hollingsworth gallery with poetry, all around the theme of bicycling, and paired with the city’s own annual Tour de Palm Coast. The Flagler County Art League qualified for $4,500.

The Flagler Playhouse applied for a grant but was turned down, even though it originated as the Little Theatre of Palm Coast and still draws the overwhelming majority of its patrons from the city. It’s located in a former church in Bunnell. “They were not eligible because they were not located nor did they host their activities within the city of Palm Coast,” Luanne Santangelo, the parks and recreations director, said. Yet the Flagler Agricultural Museum, also not located in Palm Coast, was granted $2,450.

“Before we had a physical location, interestingly enough, we did receive grants from the city,” Pat Love, a Flagler Playhouse board member, said, “and of course we worked toward having a physical location but it’s kind of worked to our detriment.” The Playhouse was also planning to have a summer camp that might have been located in Palm Coast, to improve its chances of qualifying for the grant.

Leading members of the arts community aren’t buying the city’s argument about hard times in light of its insistence that quality of life is central to its aims of attracting new residents and re-igniting its growth.

“I’m appreciative that they give us something, because anything is better than nothing,” says Lisa McDevitt, director of the Flagler Auditorium—which, she says, put up 650 performers in local hotel rooms last year, and drew 41 percent of its patrons from outside the county, drawing them in to spend money in Palm Coast. “They really need to do their research on how much arts help the community,” McDevitt said. “It attracts people that would like to move here because there’s culture.”

Gargiuolo was seeking $5,000 for his poetry and bicycle event. Getting half will mean he won’t be able to advertise it as much as he intended, particularly to out-of-towners who might have added to the city’s Tour de Palm Coast, a bicycling tour around the city’s trails.

“It’s not enough. It’s very low,” Gargiuolo said, “and another problem with it is the city expects you to be self-supporting in three years. If you do an event worth more than three years you’re no longer eligible for that grant. At that rate we’re never going to have a Halifax Arts Festival or a Deland arts festival or Mount Dora. We’re just short-changing ourselves. These are growing festivals that have been going on for years.”

To McGuire, it’s like the city hall controversy: it would be nice to build a new one. But now is not the time, when the city is facing more pressing needs such as infrastructure improvements.  “I had an email from a constituent last week raising nine kinds of hell because the city is going to spend $7,000 to have this snowball that people can go in at Christmas time,” McGuire said, referring to a display enabling people to have pictures taken of themselves and their family, with Santa, in a snow cone, for $8 a pop. The display will be at Town Center this weekend. “That’s how much they’re paying top rent it, now they’re going to charge admission on that, there’ll be some defraying for that cost, but every time you talk about subsidizing something that doesn’t contribute directly to public safety and quality of life—and you can make the argument that the cultural arts do that—but it’s a stingy time.”

Palm Coast Arts and Cultural Grants, 2012

Grant Request
Actual Grant*
African American Cultural SocietyAACS Annual Cultural Arts Series, January –June, 2012
49% of Request
Choral Arts SocietyConcert Series:
Nov. 25 & 27, 2011
May 4 7 6, 2012
July 4, 2011
49% of Request
Community Chorus of Palm CoastConcert Series
January 15, 2012
May 20, 2012
49% of Request
Flagler Auditorium2011-2012 Season$3,000$1,470
49% of Request
Flagler County Art LeagueCelebration of Arts Week$4,500$2,205
49% of Request
Flagler Agricultural MuseumNorth Florida Folk Festival$5,000$2,450
49% of Request
Flagler PlayhouseDenied
Gargiulo Art Foundation Inc.Poetry/Bicycle Event$5,000$2,450
49% of Request
Hispanic American Club of Palm CoastHispanic Heritage Festival, September 29-30, 2012
49% of Request
Palm Coast Arts FoundationPicnic and Pops
Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
49% of Request
Palm Coast United Methodist Church2011-2012 Concert Series$3,000$1,470
49% of Request
Trinity Presbyterian ChurchMosaic of Art and Music$3,000$1,470
49% of Request
Totals: $4,500$19,845
(*) As recommended by the city's leisure services committee to the Palm Coast City Council, which agreed without debate to the recommendations on Nov. 30, and ratified the requests formally at its Dec. 6 meeting.
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20 Responses for “Miser City: Palm Coast’s Support for The Arts Is 27 Cents Per Year Per Resident”

  1. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    Palm Coast’s City Council = COMPLETELY clueless.

  2. Jim N says:

    You may want to recheck the Florida Agriculture Museum.. It is located in the city. I believe it was annexed around 2004. Just for clarification. While you are at it look at what money the City has founded for the Ag. Museum over the past 5-6 years. you may well be surprised at the totals!

  3. ditto says:

    The county and school board get 85% of our tax dollars why are’nt they asked to support this?? Everybody and their cause come to the city for a hand out.. The over financed shool board can’t figure out where to spend their money so they can ask for more.. The county does’nt have a clue where their money goes or who spends it.. Maybe it’s one of those political deals, don’t ask don’t tell..

  4. Terry says:

    27 cents too much. Another example of stealing from some to give to others. If you want “art”, pay for it yourself. If your “art” is good enough, people will pay for it themselves. If it’s not, do something else.

  5. Outsider says:

    The government should not be paying for arts. It’s not their role…..nowhere in the constitution does it say the government is responsible to pay for people’s entertainment. If there is a market for it, then it will pay for itself.

  6. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    Fall Issue 1974
    Page two

    First Palm Coast Symposium to Assay The Human Condition

    From the very inception of Palm Coast the cultural aspect of its future have
    been an integral part of the planning.

    Palm Coast is a planned, total community. Land use is a balance of
    residential, commercial, social and open space, with provision for
    education, arts, health care and other requisites for a good life. As a new
    town, it functions as a proving ground for new and better ways of doing
    things, to promote better urban living, to improve the quality of life in
    all areas of human existence.

    One of the areas of extreme inportance with which a new town, or any town,
    nust concern itself is the encouragement of cultural pursuits, the liberal
    arts, etc. because they provide a special and natural way for people to get
    in touch with themselves, to communicate with each other, and to get more
    satisfaction from being alive. Without this human growth and interaction,
    there can be no development of any town , any society.

    Toward aiding this cultural growth, and toward fulfillment of its cultural
    and social commitment to Palm Coast, we are staging the First Palm Coast
    Symposium, Novenber 15 and 16th, 1974.

    From the outset, Dr. Young has believed that cultural growth must be an
    integral thread in the fabric of Palm Coast life. Palm Coast is a town of
    vision and as such, we conceived the plan for the Symposium at the very
    beginning of the planning process and we endeavor to make this type of
    cultural expression a continuing experience in the future.

    It is Palm Coast’s hopes that the concept of the Symposium will flourish and
    expand to become a national and perhaps international instituion concerned
    with the human dimensions of contemporary problems.

    It is envisioned that future symposia at Palm Coast will bring together
    outstanding men and women from business, science, government, the arts,
    education, and the humanities and other sectors of society who will learn
    from one another through discussion and debate. And each will contribute his
    or her talents and experiences to a mutual exploration of the human
    condition, contrasting established convictions and habits with the new ideas
    of today.

    Fundamentall important is not that final solutions emerge from the
    discussions at Palm Coast but that the essence of the best thinking on these
    matters be exposed, evaluated, refined, and applied to individual lives and

    Dr. Young believes that great historical change is not the result of
    inexorable force only. Great changes can come about because a few people are
    able to articulate powerful ideas, thus generating new forces in human

    The formal sessions and the accomodations will be at the * Sheraton
    Palm Coast Inn . Attendance will be by invitation only. The topics of
    the discussions will include: Human Nature and Human Destiny; Uplifting the
    Underprivileged; Popular Culture and Elite Culture, The Universities: For
    What and Whom??

    Panelists include William Buckley, Editor of the National Review; Gloria
    Steinem, Editor of Ms. Magazine, Harold Rosenberg, art critic of New Yorker
    Magazine, Professor Leslie Fiedler, Chairman of the English Department,
    State University of New York at Buffalo; Dr. Gunnar Myrdal, noted Swedish
    social scientist; Sidney Hood, philosopher and Research Fellow at the Hoover
    Instituteion, Vernon E. Jordan, Executive Director of the National Urban
    League; Saul Bellow best selling author; Dr. James Watason, Nobel
    Prize-winning biologist, Arthur Schles, Jr. two – time winner of the
    Pulitzer Prize, historian and writer; Lionel Trilling, University Professor
    Emeritus, Columbia, Truman Capote, noted author, and Dr. E.T.York,
    Chancellor – Elect of the State Universities for the State of Florida.

    The moderator of the sessions will be Melvin M. Tumin, Professor of
    Sociology and Anthropology, Princeton University.

    These are the outstanding Panelists who participated in the First Palm
    Coast Symposium are shown in the Jpeg above.

    The Palm Coast Symposia were very well attended last Century and attracted many.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    All the failed promises that ITT took along when abandoned Palm Coast in the late 90’s.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Government should not pay for art events but can promote and help to organize thru their Parks Departments some self paid sufficient events like next for example a Free NYC Central Park Fall Free Concert Last September 14, 2011. This is what puts NYC on the worlds Arts map.Can be seeing the sponsors of the event that includes the patronage of Italy government at the bottom of the link page. Also the sale of the recorded show to TV stations, PBS in this case as well as the sale of the cd’s, etc.
    Why can’t we do something like this in Palm Coast, contact other countries governments to collaborate hopefully with funding for cultural arts exchange like done above, contact PBS. Our Public Broadcasting Stations do not bite, as portrayed sometimes, to the contrary make it affordable to see these concerts..
    There are a lot of wealthy people in cultural organizations as well in some of our neighboring countries and also in Europe that if properly contacted would be honored to contribute just to let their cultures be shown here. We may start small with just a couple or worldwide known starts and see how it goes. Just bring a couple of big names up there and the sponsorships will fly in, I believe , also the attendance that will benefit local business including hospitality and restaurants and the exposure to those visiting that some may want to move here and bring their businesses along and create jobs. Ideas and more next:
    Currently City of Palm Coast is in the right track with Event Coordinator Lisa Gardner promoting and organizing our city self sufficient latest sports, food and musical events a complete success..

  9. Doug Chozianin says:

    A couple of weeks ago my wife and I attended a cute mystery play, 13 Past Midnight, at the “Black Box” theater at Flagler High. Every seat was filled by a paying audience.

    If the “ARTS” produced events that the paying public wants to see, they’ll be able to fund their productions.

    If the productions are esoteric or uninteresting or appeals to a non-paying public, they should be funded from the profits from previous productions or not produced at all.

    The “ARTS” need to be run like a business. It’s the individual, not the government, that should support (good) art by purchasing tickets and/or donating dollars. The Metropolitan Opera / HD is a great example.

  10. Doug Chozianin says:

    I couldn’t help notice that the City Council gives 49% to all “ARTS” requests (see chart).

    Sooooooooooooo if you need X dollars, ask for 2X. I bet they won’t notice.

  11. NortonSmitty says:

    Isn’t it time for Enterprise Flagler or the Chamber to propose a $25 million dollar investment to open up the worlds only museum dedicated to the collection of Elvis Presley commemorative plates or build the Louvre of Black Velvet Clown Paintings to boost tourism? We can’t be stingy, we’ll be left behind!

  12. Outsider says:

    I’m all for the Elvis Presley plate museum; maybe they can include audio recordings from actual witnesses of post-death sightings of “The King.”

  13. w.ryan says:

    One of our newest city councilman, Bill McGuire stated this-“I’ve never been a person that thought that municipalities should dig deep for the cultural arts,” Bill McGuire, one of the two newest members of the council, said. “I enjoy the cultural arts, I welcome the cultural arts, but I think cultural arts need to be more self-sustaining. When you get something given to you, how valuable is it? I think most of the cultural arts that are successful over the years—in St. Louis I belonged to the Classical Guitar Society, I loved it, I paid them money out of my pocket, I enjoyed their concerts, and as far as I know the city of St. Louis gave them zip.”
    From the classical Guitar Societies website,( ……Our primary sources of funding have traditionally been the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis. From 1982 to 1992–before the program was dissolved–we received nine annual grants from the highly competitive Music Program of the National Endowment for the Arts, the only guitar society in the nation to receive this support……Let’s know what we’re talking about! At the moment the arts and cultural entities are hanging on by a tread while opinionated, arrogant conservatives lead the ignorant and blind. This is a case of the blind leading the Blind. Cultural anemia leads to the death of societies. Therefore it is the responsibility of government to support the arts. Councilman McGuire, please open your eyes and see what is at stake when we don’t fund the arts. Funding should not be trivialized. You quantify one nights performance as just one night. That’s too simplistic an assumption for an elected official to make.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ryan : Your point is well taken. When I first patronized this society I was under the impression that it was, primarily paid for by members. The grants that it receives now were’nt always there and the society has grown enormously since I was there in the ’80s. That being said, the society is not dependant on ad valorem taxes from the city of St. Louis.

    • Terry says:

      Ryan: A fundamental error in your statements is that “it is the responsibility of government to support the arts.”

      The government doesn’t support anything! Our tax dollars do. Therefore you’re saying that it is MY responsibility to support the arts. It is NOT. The arts should be supported only by their patrons.

      It is worth noting that many of the requests in the above list are far from what most would call “art”. Poetry/bicycle event? Give me a break!

      I submit that it’s not “cultural anemia” that leads to the death of societies so much as economic collapse because capitalism is suppressed. Take a look at history.

      • w.ryan says:

        Why is there such an opposition by so few to curtail the arts for so many in our society? Governments responsibility is to do what is in the best interest of its peoples. It should preserve as well as stimulate our cultural aesthetics. If that means supporting a poetry/bike event to entice the interest of money spending patrons and athletes, why not. This generates money to run our economy. This has happened repeatedly in history. I don’t see capitalism being suppressed. We need to reassess this new found so called fiscal responsibility slogan conservatives throw around. Conservatives want the money to go directly to business to stimulate the pockets of business and not spread the wealth. Cultural stimulus creates fiscal growth thus giving relevance to my statement. As for the collapse of societies, With extreme gaps between the poor and the rich we see upheavals in governments . This is history.

  14. J.J. Graham says:

    Anybody that thinks art doesn’t fuel the economy and promote capatalistic oppurtunities, should put their remote down, knock the cheeto dust of their wifebeater tshirt, and educate themselves with a trip to Miami, during Art Basel. Contributing to the Arts goes much further than just donating to organizations. Commission artists for public works that we can all enjoy. Lets decorate the city. It’s about class. some cities have it, some don’t. I think Palm Coast could be a neat little city. A gem, if the majority of people get on the same page and speak out, it can happen.

    • Robert Ammon says:

      I’d like to agree with Weldon Ryan’s assessment of the clearly myopic view of some of our leaders and neighbors. It would behoove certain council members and other Palm Coast residents to attend one of our (Flagler County Art League) monthly show receptions before they criticize any support we may receive. By the way, they are FREE to the public! Or attend one of our monthly meetings at which we book speakers that come here to further educate us on a host of interesting subjects. Those meetings are also FREE to the public! But then that would require an open mind, wouldn’t it?? It reminds me of a line from the movie “Cool Hand Luke”. “Some people you just can’t reach”. But you can count on us to keep trying.

  15. local consumer says:

    i for one,am not into cultural stuff…..therefor i shouldnt have to pay for it -for someone else to enjoy…

    i like bluray movies at home–maybe the taxpayers could pay for my collection to grow

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