Florida Art Orgs Scrambling After DeSantis Cuts All Culture Grants

Hundreds of visual and performing arts spaces across Florida were shocked to learn that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed $32 million in allocated funding for the state’s arts and culture budget. DeSantis signed off on the decision on Wednesday, June 12, only weeks before the July 1 start date of the fiscal year — the first in state history in which the cultural sector has been left completely high and dry.

Out of the state’s proposed budget of $117 billion, the state’s Division of Arts and Culture had initially recommended $77 million in allocated funding to meet the needs of 630 qualifying nonprofits that could each request up to $150,000 in grant money. Legislators whittled that figure down to $32 million, significantly slashing grant offerings before DeSantis delivered the final blow earlier this month.

“We join cultural organizations across the state in being disappointed at the total lack of state funding for 2024–2025, especially when the arts are such a draw for tourist dollars,” said Ghislain d’Humières, director and CEO of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, in an email to Hyperallergic. The institution uses the state’s operational grant money to support its educational and curatorial endeavors.

The creative industry isn’t the only sector to face immense budget cuts under DeSantis’s pen as water maintenance projects; addiction, hunger, and homelessness relief services; and menstrual product access programs were denied between tens to hundreds of millions of dollars from the state in an effort to reduce projected expenditures by $1 billion. However, Florida’s arts and culture sector generates billions of dollars in economic activity, hundreds of millions in local and state revenue, supports almost 100,000 jobs statewide, and maintains a role as a major tourism draw as well.

“We are revisiting next year’s budget now to see how we can minimize the impact of this loss,” d’Humières said, pointing to the short amount of time before the fiscal year begins. “It is unfortunate that the Governor may not have considered the impact this action will have on accessibility to the arts.”

Cathryn Mattson, the executive director and CEO of the Orlando Museum of Art, told Hyperallergic that the institution was “deeply disappointed” by DeSantis’s decision.

“This action undermines the vital role that arts and culture play in our community,” Mattson said, citing the museum’s own programming and community outreach. “The arts are not just a luxury, they are an essential component of a vibrant, well-rounded society. They foster creativity, critical thinking, and empathy, providing a platform for diverse voices and stories.”

Museums and performing arts centers aren’t the only organizations buckling under DeSantis’s veto. Lorie Mertes, the director of Miami’s longest-running nonprofit alternative arts hub Locust Projects, told Hyperallergic that the scrapped operational grant of around $123,000 for “salaries, program expenses, and overhead in support of programs” was a “definite blow” as the fiscal year rounds the corner.

“Artists and the arts are essential to society,” Mertes wrote in an email, adding that Miami’s arts and culture scene alone generated $2.1 billion in economic activity in 2023.

Without state funding, Mertes noted that Locust Projects is pausing rehires and hustling to adjust its budget, noting that while “it’s difficult to operate with a shifting funding base but that is what nonprofits do all the time.” However, when it’s down to the wire, Mertes said that programs, artists, and project vendors and contractors suffer in situations like this — as does the intended audience.

“I’m just in disbelief this could really happen,” Mertes said.

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