Musicians, artists, actors, dancers, gardeners and many other creatives crammed the Leon County Commission meeting and two overflow rooms Tuesday to defend the Council on Culture and Arts (COCA).
They were hoping that their efforts would motivate the commission to continue funding the non-profit organization for five more years, rather than taking that revenue and funnel it directly to the in-house Division of Tourism.
“The question here today is should the agency move forward with the money provided and continue to do good things or, do we save some of the money and administrative costs by keeping it in-house,” said Matt Cavell, assistant to the county administrator for community relations and resilience.
It was already easy to tell that the commissioners were in sync on supporting the organization before introducing the 30 guest speakers who had signed up to address them.
“If we’re going in the direction I think we’re going, it might not be worth spending a couple hours,” Commissioner Bryan Desloge said.
Commissioner Kristin Dozier said,“We have public statements from three of us, the majority, I think that it should be a good feeling for those in and outside of the room.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the five-year contract after previously being asked to provide alternate structures to manage cultural programing and grants to the city and county. Although the commissioners showed support in keeping the item in motion, some made it clear that they still have concerns.
“All I want is to make sure that the $1.27 million dollars of (tourism) revenue is rented out in a way that there is no question as to the integrity of the process, because we, as the county, have to be stewards of those dollars,” Commissioner Nick Maddox said.
Leon County allocates the funding from the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) and general revenue to support COCA and its mission to serve as a facilitator and the voice for the arts and cultural industry in Tallahassee.
Many partners and community members came out to support COCA. In attendance was Jennifer Humayun, co-executive director of Goodwood Museum and Gardens, a non-profit organization funded by COCA. Although she is grateful for the funding, because it helps keep the doors open at Goodwood, what she finds most rewarding is how her organization can help benefit others in the art community.
“In addition to us receiving funding, one of the things that we are really proud of is the fact that when our spaces aren’t being used or not being rented, generating income for our direct organizational needs, we’ve been able to invite people to rehearse for theatrical performances, or organizations to paint architecture; for all people under the art culture,” she said.