Polk County arts community reacts to Governor DeSantis vetoing cultural art grants

The arts community is rattled and shocked by Governor Ron DeSantis vetoing various cultural art grants.

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales was expecting to receive $62,000 from the state through a cultural and museum grant. The legislature had already cut the grant by 40 percent earlier this year, so President David Price says it was disheartening to learn the governor vetoed the grant in its entirety.

"These are competitive grants and different institutions put a lot of work into them. These are grants going on for decades and so a lot of cultural organizations depend on these grants, and then they build their budgets on them, and they build their future on these grants," said Price.

Price says cultural arts are a major driver for the economy in Florida and as the state grows, the funding is necessary to improve quality of life.

"It really shakes the community up because does this mean the programs are going to go away?" asked Price.

In Lakeland, the Florida Children's Museum expected to receive around $60,000 through a General Operating Support Grant.

"An organization as large as the Florida Children's Museum can bounce back from this," said Kerry Falwell, CEO of the Florida Children's Museum. "My heart breaks for the really small or mid-size arts organizations that rely on this to put on whole productions."

Falwell says she has no intentions as of right now to cut positions in their education department. The museum may have to alter their ticket prices, or apply for additional private grant dollars, or appeal to current sponsors to increase their gifts.

Price says he'll have to pivot as well, as the grant was funding a salary at the garden.

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"What we'll have to do with the loss of these grants is take funds from other activities and backfill the losses from that," said Price.

The arts community is resilient, so these leaders say it will carry on.

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