Miami-Dade County's arts taskforce spawns partnership with Washington, DC's Kennedy Center
By Zachary S. Fagenson
While finding permanent funding for the arts — the No. 1 suggestion of a county-backed taskforce charged with examining the state of Miami-Dade's cultural community — is as far from reality as ever, the group's laundry list of suggestions has been taken to heart by the Cultural Affairs Council and some are already being worked on.
"It's been incorporated into what we are going to be doing, and quite frankly we're following up on every element there," said Adolfo Henriques, chair of council who also chaired the temporary taskforce. "There was a whole list of actionable items, and each one of them is being ticked off.
"When we have our meeting in February that's where we'll address what's happened, what we've done and where we're taking the rest," he added.
One of the most tangible results of the taskforce's work today is a partnership with the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
They're "bringing faculty to Miami and are going to lead 60 cultural organizations through a year of workshops on sustainability," said Michael Spring, director of the county's Department of Cultural Affairs.
Furthermore, the taskforce, which held a series of town hall-style meetings with cultural organizations of all sizes from across the county, also served as impetus for the cultural affairs department to pursue and secure the Performing Arts Exchange conference in 2012.
"This is a conference where groups perform and where the people that run facilities book them," Mr. Spring said. "Our department actually contacted Arts South, flew down their conference team and showed them our facilities.
"It's an opportunity for our groups to showcase their work, make money, get prestige, and that all arose from the taskforce," he added.
In a previous interview, Mr. Spring said the department has followed the taskforce's suggestion of creating an online database of spaces that cultural groups can use for exhibitions, performances or rehearsals and is "aggressively pursuing new technical-assistance opportunities for our cultural groups, ways in which they can improve their skills."
The 19-member taskforce, the result of an initiative by Commissioner Rebeca Sosa that produced that and other suggestions, was charged with examining the sustainability of Miami-Dade's more than 1,000 cultural groups, trends in public and private funding for the arts, and consolidation and collaboration strategies arts after Mayor Carlos Alvarez in 2009 proposed zeroing out cultural affairs department grant programs.
That move would have spelled the end of hundreds of arts groups across the county, but a cultural community outcry led commissioners to restore 70% of the $11.1 million plus $1.5 million from library district reserves.
Despite preserving the grant program and putting new initiatives in place, the top goal of Miami's artistic community remains its own source of funding.
"I think the most important thing is that they, the policymakers, and we, the people who recommended it, understood that it's not possible to sustain that commitment through time when there are competing interests in a county budget as big as ours," said taskforce member and local artist Xavier Cortada. "That's why the taskforce ultimately decided to recommend a direct source of funding for culture in Dade County."
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