Arts Council of Northwest Florida Official Statement

Received this evening:

January 2, 2010
Arts Council of Northwest Florida Mission
Our mission is to create a premiere arts and culture community in Escambia County to enrich the quality of life, to support cultural diversity and to enhance the economic prosperity by providing excellence in leadership, advocacy, financial support, and education to artists, cultural organizations and citizens in Escambia County.

Official Statement
Serving the arts organizations and cultural community of Escambia County has always been a top priority of the Arts Council of Northwest Florida. In its 30 years of existence, the Arts Council has been an advocate to the all-encompassing arts community from arts organizations with six-figure budgets to neophyte artists and organizations.

As the local arts organization of Escambia County, being an advocate of our cultural constituents and community, it is important for those groups and individuals, as well as the community in general, to understand that there has been no fraudulent or criminal activity by the Arts Council. The recent events shedding light on late payments to the arts organizations through the Arts Council allocations process are simply a direct result of a shortfall in a fundraising goal, beginning in 2008-09 fiscal year.

Financial Viability
There is no missing money from the Arts Council of Northwest Florida. The Arts Council has an annual operating budget of $320,000 with $120,000 of that budget being received through local and governmental grants to be distributed to local arts organizations. As with any other viable non-for-profit organization, supplemental income goals, such as that of fundraising, assisted with the Arts Council’s operational expenses including, but not limited to, staff salaries for two (2) full-time employees, rent, etc. In addition to local and governmental funding, additional income for the Arts Council is generated through other sources such as board membership dues, income from auxiliary functions, individual memberships and corporate sponsorships.

In addition to other notable cost-saving measures performed by the Arts Council, the organization recently entered into a lease partnership with Escambia County to occupy the old county courthouse at a cost of one dollar per year. The organization’s previous yearly lease payment was $6,700 for the 2008-09 FY. That amount increased to $7,200 for the 2009-10 FY. The staff was also able to save approximately $6,300 in additional office expenses. The Arts Council moved into the courthouse in mid-October.

Paid Staff
The Arts Council of Northwest Florida has two paid employees: an executive director with an annual salary of $52,000 and a business manager with an annual salary of $36,000. The job description for the executive director includes, but is not limited to, maintaining relationships with local arts organizations by implementing the facets of the Arts Council’s mission; cultivating and maintaining substantial donor relationships; seeking and procuring additional grant funding; working directly with a volunteer board of directors and helping to align the organization for future development and prosperity.

The business manager’s role of the Arts Council is to provide support to the executive director; maintain financial records of the organization; maintain all public relations efforts among arts organizations, members and other cultural constituents; become actively involved with other arts organizations such as Pensacola Little Theatre’s “Life is a Cabaret,” and Alzheimer Family Services “Mozart and Margaritas”; handle all aspects of the auxiliary functions of the Arts Council as well as all other routine, operational procedures of the organizations.

The board of directors recently approved a reduced paid work schedule for the staff which entailed a two-week furlough being staggered between both employees. For example, the business manager would take two weeks of unpaid leave while the executive director performed the function of both paid staff members during that time. After two weeks, upon the business manager’s return, the executive director would take two weeks off of unpaid leave while the business manager performed the function of both paid staff members. This plan was one measure used to alleviate the financial hardship being experienced by the organization.

Auxiliary Functions
In the 30 years of existence, The Arts Council of Northwest Florida has designed, developed, and maintained a myriad of auxiliary functions under the organization’s vision. The most successful of those functions includes, but are not limited to, the following:

Gallery Night
The Arts Council has built Gallery Night into one of downtown Pensacola’s most successful events. Taking place five nights a year, Gallery Night spotlights local visual and performing artists in downtown merchant locations. Drawing thousands to downtown every time Gallery Night is produced, as many as 50+ merchants participate. In addition, the Arts Council has begun developing partnerships with local human services non profits to raise funds for those organizations. As an example, the September Gallery Night is partnered with architects to host Canstruction, a fundraiser for Manna Food Pantries. Coupled with a new Gallery Night logo, merchant participation increased by approximately 10% along with a significant increase in attendance. Gallery Night is a wonderful showcase for local artists and a home run economic development tool for Pensacola.

Outside Art Fair
From a small gathering held in a board member’s front yard to a full blown festival held at Bartrum Park with more than 60 artists, this event has a world class eco friendly kids section with interactive exhibits, a select group of terrific food vendors and an outstanding line-up of regional musical talent for two days.

Despite a difficult economy this past year, artist participation in the Outside Art Fair remained strong with support from corporate sponsors and an excellent turnout. Additional costs saving were achieved through in-kind support from various merchants. Event sponsor Navy Federal joined the event for the second year. A new music committee chair succeeded in raising the level of musical entertainment significantly. Approximately 47,000 patrons attended Gallery Nights and the Outside Art Fair.

Economic Impact Study
This study involves searching out and contacting all arts organizations in Escambia County to determine eligibility. For the first study of this kind conducted last year, over 100 organizations were vetted, and 35 were included. Data collected included but was not limited to operational, project and capital budgets, numbers of full and part-time employees, volunteers, audiences (paid and non-paid), and audience surveys including home zip codes and additional spending, and length of stay. The study quantified the Escambia County arts and culture community as an $84 million annual industry, supporting over 2,000 full-time jobs, attracting over 2.4 million patrons including over a million visitors, generating $3.7 million in local taxes and over $6.4 million in state taxes annually. Biannual updates are planned with data collection occurring annually.

Arts and Culture Guide
Now in its sixth year, the Arts and Culture Guide is an essential part of Escambia County tourism advertising. Promoting all arts and cultural organizations, the guide includes performance and special event calendars as well as information on classes, tours, and other activities offered by organizations that visitors may take part in. Next year’s Guide will mark a new milestone as a partnership has been developed with the Santa Rosa Arts and Cultural Foundation. This expanded Guide will include both counties with an increasing reach touching more tourists across the Southeast.

Cinco Banderas Collection.
The Cinco Banderas Collection was created and endowed twenty-one years ago by the Kobacker family. The Arts Council has recently inventoried, repaired, restored, curated and hanged an exhibition of the entire collection for the first time in its history. An Arts Council committee maintains a collections management book as well as established policies and procedures to keep the collection well-maintained and serving the public as it was intended.

Credit Card Services for Individual Artists and Arts Organizations
Individual member artists and arts organizations may submit their credit card receipts to the Arts Council for processing. For a small fee of 5% which covers our expenses to banks and merchant services, we provide a check to those individuals and/or organizations for the credit card amounts.

Arts and Culture Master Calendar and Eblasts
The Arts Council maintains a master calendar of all arts and culture events in Escambia County. Member organizations and individuals receive a password with allows them access to the calendar so they may post events and information. Additionally, the Arts Council maintains an email list of artists and arts supporters through which we distribute information on events, performances, call to artists, etc.

The Arts Council has established an independent committee with professional arts management representation to evaluate and score applications for funding. The application itself is based on one received from the Florida Arts Council. Once the applicants are scored, funds are distributed via an iteration formula obtained from the Florida Arts Council. The formula takes into account the total amount of money to be distributed along with the scores each applicant makes in relation to their peer scores.

Administrative Services for GGAF
The Arts Council acts as a point of contact for the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival, accepting mail, phones, responding to inquires, etc. for this all volunteer committee. For this one organization alone, The Arts Council fields 20-30+ phone calls a day with the volume of calls being at its height prior to festivals.

Miscellaneous Services
The Arts Council performs a variety of services from answering inquires about applying for and securing nonprofit status to recommending artists and/or professionals for a variety of purposes including classes, special events and art evaluation.