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Area arts leaders gather for summit on fundraising, new projects

Author: Lennie Bennett, Times Art Critic 2013-10-25

In welcoming more than 100 regional arts professionals and

advocates to the first Arts Summit, Foster launched into the

opening bars of Oh, What a Beautiful Morning from the musical

Oklahoma!, which he performed in high school. (He has a nice


It was an upbeat, artsy beginning to an upbeat gathering to

encourage collaborations, offer advice on marketing and

advocacy and announce a new online program designed

exclusively for arts crowdsourced fundraising.

Sponsored by businesses and cultural institutions, the event

included museum directors from Tampa, St. Petersburg and

Sarasota; executives and trustees of performing arts

organizations such as the Florida Orchestra, Straz Center for the

Arts and American Stage Theatre Company; and the directors

of the arts alliances of St. Petersburg, Hillsborough and Sarasota

counties. It was one of the largest and broadest meetings of its


The recession hit the arts hard with recovery slow, so raising

money was on a lot of minds. Most of the panel discussions

were related to that. Keynote speaker Randy Cohen, an

executive with the advocacy organization Americans for the

Arts in Washington, D.C., delivered a "Go Team!" speech with a

raft of statistics touting art's social and economic benefits.

The summit was an insider affair, but it will probably have a

broad community impact. One of the most specific was the

introduction of, an online crowd-funding tool

that began in Charlotte, N.C., in 2011 and has expanded to 11

states and 20 community sites. Those sites have raised almost $4


"It's a platform that complements existing fundraising," said

Laura Belcher, Power2Give's director.

It will be available to any arts organization with not-for-profit

status in the three counties and launches on Dec. 12. Free

workshops will be held in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota in


Pete Zinober, a Tampa attorney and past chairman of the Arts

Council of Hillsborough County, said in his opening remarks that

one of the summit's goals was "to originate ideas," and

transportation became a big point of discussion.

During a session on collaborations, Tampa Museum of Art

director Todd Smith and Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

director Kent Lydecker discussed the evolution of their

collaboration on a joint exhibition featuring emerging Chinese

artists, which will open next June. Several audience members

pressed them on plans to offer transportation, such as charter

buses, between the two venues. (They're working on it.) Which

led to broader questions about ongoing regional links: Why not

water taxies to ferry people between the downtown

waterfronts of Tampa and St. Petersburg and on to Sarasota

Bay, near the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, for

example? Which led to Smith quipping that the museums were

organizing their own light rail system. Which led to laughter.

But most of the moments were serious, and a second summit is

planned for 2014 when the meeting will offer new opportunities

and a report on goals from this first summit.


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