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Awarding Just $20,000 in Arts Grants Again, Palm Coast Agrees to Rethink Its Stinginess

| November 14, 2012

Sculptor Wes Cackler’s ‘The Race,’ outside Palm Coast’s city offices at City Market Place, is a remnant of the Gargiulo Foundation’s bike and poetry show at Hollingsworth Gallery this year, one of the arts programs that qualified for a city grant again. (© FlaglerLive)

When it comes to funding for the arts, the Palm Coast City Council is squarely in the minimalist tradition. On Tuesday, the council endorsed the city’s latest round of annual arts grants, which add up to $20,000, or far less than the city would spend to sod a median or cement a small stretch of sidewalk.

The $20,000 will be divided between nine local arts organizations, most of them previous beneficiaries of the city’s grants, but with notable exceptions (among them the Flagler Auditorium and the Flagler Playhouse, neither of which applied). The largest grant amount is $3,125 (three organizations qualified for those). The rest are for $1,875, with one organization qualifying for $1,250.

bill lewis palm coast city council member

Bill Lewis. (© FlaglerLive)

Year after year, Palm Coast City Council member Bill Lewis has been pushing for more generous grant. Last year he termed himself the “lone wolf” on the matter, for good reason: his colleagues have not only opposed raising the grant amounts. Two years ago they lowered them by a third.

“We’re not very serious about it,” Lewis said. “Twenty thousand dollars, and we had 10 applicants, it’s a joke, really, when we talk about millions of dollars for many other things, and we’re not serious about doing something about arts.” He recalled asking for increases in the past, for naught. “We can’t talk about having a diverse community and having all kinds of culture here and we’re not serious about funding it. It’s not just Palm Coast, I know it’s a national trend, but we really have to do more for our culture and arts people. I’m hoping we can hopefully increase that in the next budget cycle.”

This year, Lewis will have some help. Jason DeLorenzo was elected to the council last year, replacing Mary DiStefano, who’d resisted increases. DeLorenzo favors them, and has a way of paying for it. The city has a special fund, where revenue from recycling and from all those pricey special events at Town Center has been piling up. (Waste Pro, the city’s garbage collector, sells recycling material and sends the proceeds to the city.) The fund has a $30,000 surplus this year.

“These events are fairly expensive for a family to go to,” DeLorenzo said of the city’s special events, whose price tag has been a point of contention for many who can’t go because of it. “I don’t want to see it collecting a lot of dollars, so we either reduce what we’re charging for residents that come to these events and not collect as much dollars, or we recycle the dollars back out to the community to other events that they can attend. I think that would be an appropriate way to use some of that money.”

Jim Landon, the city manager, appeared to like the idea: “It would be very consistent with us turning those dollars into event kind of funding mechanism,” he said. But Landon was hedging his bets: when council member Bill McGuire spoke opf his opposition to granting increases, Landon moved closer to McGuire, saying the intent of the city’s arts and cultural grants program was not to be a source of cash for organizations year after year, but to provide seed money for a couple of years, enabling organizations to establish new programs in town. After that, they were to be on their own.

“After two or three years,” Landon said, “some of the organizations came and said, without your money, we’re going to stop the program. So they came to city council and said, we need you to extend dollars and at that time as a compromise, the council said OK, if you’re a new program, we’d go up to $3,000–$5,000, then as a continuing program, $3,000.”

Some organizations, like the Flagler Agriculture Museum, have a multiplicity of programs, “so they submit a different program so they keep it new,” Landon said. “It is what it is, we can’t do anything about that.”

Mayor Jon Netts didn’t take a position different than the one he’s taken in recent years—supporting the scaling back of the grants, and sticking with the lower amount this year. But he was willing to have a more extensive discussion on the matter, separate from the broader discussion: Netts wants a full-blown council debate on the future of the program, leaving the door open the Lewis-DeLorenzo ideas. Those ideas will still face stiff resistance from McGuire.

Bill McGuire. (© FlaglerLive) palm coast city council

Bill McGuire. (© FlaglerLive)

“It’s great to support arts. I like the concept of seed money and all that,” McGuire said. “But the economy is still in the toilet. The city’s budget, we’re tightening it all the time. This looks to me kind of like the tennis center. Until you tell somebody show me a plan, show me a plan that you intend to become self-sufficient, because we’re not a never-ending source of cash for you. I don’t mind giving you the money, it’s the taxpayers’ money, if you’re building something that’s meaningful in a cultural sense. But every year just to say, well every year we can depend on the city of Palm Coast handing us a check for this amount of money, whether we do anything or not, sooner or later they either have to stand or fall on their own two feet.”

Curiously, the city council has been subsidizing the money-losing tennis center for several years: the city picked up the bill for a $140,000 deficit at the center last year, and $120,000 deficit this year. In other words, the two years’ deficits add up to a sum 13 times larger than one year’s worth of arts grants to organizations whose patrons, in the aggregate, far outnumber the scanty membership of the tennis club. The city remains, for now, a source of never-ending cash for the center, depending almost exclusively on the city for its viability—as arts organizations do not.

McGuire continued: “Before I’d support going from $20,000 to $32,000” in annual grants funding, “I’d like to hear from some of these groups that hey, we’re not going to just come out here with our hand out, we’ve got a plan.”

Those plans are in the city’s hands: Each organization, to qualify for an arts grant, is required to submit detailed plans to the city, including full budgets for the organizations, and line-itemed details showing where each dollars is spent.

This year’s grant awards, which the council is expected to approve at its next meeting, are listed below, with previous-year comparisons. The complete grants applications are available here.

Copy of Palm Coast Arts and Cultural Grants, 2013

Organization
Event
Grant Request
Actual 2013 Grant*
Grant in 2012
African American Cultural SocietyAACS Annual Cultural Arts Series, December 2012-September 2013
$3,000$1,875
$1,470
Choral Arts SocietyConcert Series:
Dec. 2012, May and July 2013
May 4 7 6, 2012
July 4, 2011
$2,000$1,250
$1,470
Community Chorus of Palm CoastConcert Series
January 15, 2012
May 20, 2012
$3,000$1,875
$2,450

Flagler Auditorium2012-13 SeasonDid not apply$1,470
Flagler County Art LeagueCelebration of Arts Week$5,000$3,125$2,205

Flagler Agricultural MuseumHot Foods and Spicy Blues Festival$5,000$3,125$2,450

Flagler Playhouse2012-13 SeasonDid not applyDenied
Gargiulo Art Foundation Inc.Poetry/Bicycle Event$5,000$3,125$2,450
Hispanic American Club of Palm CoastHispanic Heritage FestivalDid not apply$1,470
Palm Coast Arts FoundationPicnic and Pops
Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
$3,000$1,875$1,470
Palm Coast United Methodist Church2012-2013 Concert Series$3,000$1,875$1,470
Trinity Presbyterian ChurchMosaic of Art and Music$3,000$1,875$1,470
Totals: $32,000$20,000$19,845
(*) As recommended by the city's leisure services committee to the Palm Coast City Council.
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17 Responses for “Awarding Just $20,000 in Arts Grants Again, Palm Coast Agrees to Rethink Its Stinginess”

  1. Lonewolf says:

    Art and culture are what separate us from the lower animals

    • Howard Duley says:

      If you call the crap that passes for art culture it is a very poor example. Most movies and TV programs pass off womens bust as a substitute for poor writting. The art being peddled is nothing but vulgar. Our culture is already in the toilet waiting for someone to flush.

  2. Arts in the Community… Priceless!!!

  3. Geezer says:

    Who the heck needs artsy-fartsey arts and culture in Palm Coast?
    The city needs the money to light up and irrigate mostly empty Town Center after sundown.

    Oh, and yes we need more bushes planted om Belle Terre so that drivers’ field of vision is better obstructed.

    Way to go Palm Coast government!
    Always doing what’s best for the citizenry.

    Yes we have no bananas!

  4. downinthelab says:

    How about the city clean out Clint’s swale? A clean swale is an artistic expression!

    SAVE THE SWALES!

  5. Alex says:

    Before you pick on the Palm Coast Tennis Center, please obtain a copy of the expense budget for last and this year. Users are making substantial contribution to the operation of this facility.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Alex, your point is not in dispute, and underscores the problem: it’s expensive to play at the center, and some people are willing to pay, though it’s a municipal operation that the city claims to run as a business. Nevertheless, the center would have been out of business had it not been for the city’s very steep subsidies.

    • RC says:

      I like the tennis center, it’s a nice place to play. However, they shouldn’t charge per person ($10 pp), they should charge per court. If I want to get three other people to play doubles, we have to pay $40 for an hour for one court. Whereas by playing singles you only pay $20 per hour. This makes no sense, it’s deterred me from playing there and I’m sure there are others as well. They need to start charging a flat rate per court of about $10 – $20. This would bring in more people to play and would then increase their revenue and decrease the amount the city has to chip in for the place.

  6. w.ryan says:

    Mr.McGuire was corrected last year in a report on Flaglerlive about the same subject we’re discussing with his same assumption that his beloved St.Louis Guitar Society ran independent from federal arts grant money and Palm Coast Arts and Cultural organizations can as well. He was surprised to learn that his assumption was far from accurate. see: http://www.guitarstlouis.net/node/17. He must have forgotten! The fact of the matter is Arts and Cultural organizations in Palm Coast run on a shoestring budget and is far cheaper and sometimes more entertaining than pay events. But unfortunately always needing financial help to endure. The Second Saturday Art shows at the Hollingsworth Gallery and FCAL don’t cost a thing. We generally provide the small eats and drinks and entertainment without any pressure to enter, enjoy or to buy. Sometimes we have live music. Artful discussion and conversation is also free. The City Repertory Theatre runs on a shoe string providing class “A” entertainment also providing workshops for the youth each year. Last but not least is the Gargiulo Arts Foundation. This foundation chooses a Flagler County based Artist of the Year. They beautify this community by donating pieces of art to the county erecting sculptures (Pierre’s photo above) all through raising money thru membership and donations. It’s a struggle without grants. Even with increased memberships and formidable art classes, raising money to sustain themselves is more difficult especially in this economy. As I understand it the grant that is provided for the arts and cultural events is for these organizations to promote cultural events and is not for sustaining their existence thru this money. Mr. McGuire should know this. It seems to him we want “FREE STUFF” Aside from not providing enough money there are more restrictions placed on the money curtailing what these organizations can do. I am happy for the support the arts have from these two members of this City Council. We need more support from others as well and we will have to find them. Arts and Culture creates economy. Increase the grants and support and Palm Coast will continue to grow strong.

  7. palmcoastpioneers says:

    We really miss our Palm Coast ‘Players Tennis and Swim Club’ , that we paid for, that was the Master Developer pledged Amenity for us, that was also part of Exhibits of the Federal Order ordering Federal Redress for us, for Palm Coast, Inc.

  8. palmcoastpioneers says:

    How the ‘Palm Coast Project’ was offered and advertised to us last Century :

    The Palm Coaster
    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 Coasat 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
    instirutions.

    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
    affairs.

    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.

  9. JAMES says:

    Arts and culture are an asset to any community. I agree with Mr. Lewis there needs to be a significient increase in annual grants. The problem in this town is that people are opposed to expanding their minds. Arts and culture are also a good business draw. As far as beautifying Palm Coast, congratulations to the City. I thing the old Geezer needs to look where he’s driving and not try to see the other side of the median. I travel Belle Terre Pkwy daily and have no problem seeing traffice or see vehicles turning. The problem on Belle Terre is people trying to beat the next car so they can cross the median or they turn into someone because they can”t judge the closing speed.

  10. J MILLER says:

    Balance the budget…have a surplus then we can discuss supporting the arts etc…

    • w.ryan says:

      Balanced the budget through creating an economy. Arts and Culture spurs growth and income. It’s a shame that conservatism can’t seem to realize how to grow an economy! This smidget of grant money is actually used to promote Palm Coast to outsiders to lure them into Palm Coast with hopes they would spend money here. Artists in the art league during Arts in the Park have to pay Palm Coast for a permit to display during this event. Unfortunately resident artists have to pay more per permit than outside artists. The bigger the event the more money is made. Ten years from now this event can bring in big bucks! Same with other Cultural events. This is an activity that’s for every member of the family, not just tennis players. Palm Coast bailed out Tennis for $260,000. And although Palm Coast has events in Town Center they are pay events where as most of the cultural events are free.

  11. DWFerg says:

    In Economics , they teach a concept/ equation called Elasticity of Demand. Someone earlier(RC ?) complained / explained this in very simple terms(Singles $ 20 /hour per court; Doubles $ 40/per hour/court), One court yields 20 more per hour if Doubles but 0 Dollars if people are disinclined to pay $ 40. Test demand perhaps by employing some of RC’s logic… Call their bluff and see what the “E” of demand is w/ Empirical data. Perhaps analogous to Impact fees in Palm Coast… No written evidence that suspending them spurs demand/ economic dev’l. , how about a trial case right here , right now in Palm Coast in 2013 ? Another way to test “E” of Demand with relevant data…

  12. Deep South says:

    I would rather have a community of physically fit active people with less health issues, instead of a community of obesity, diabetic, ill people who look at paintings. Think about the quality of life issue here.

  13. w.ryan says:

    Nice Hook Deep South. We’re talking about funding arts and culture. The tennis center gets money. It’s being used as an example of inequality. Everyone supports good health. That’s not the issue.

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