Natalie Roberts, Flagship Law, PLLC
Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make
She told me
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”
So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays
And here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make[i]
Typically, when considering the impact of the arts on a community, one thinks of the emotional response and personal growth inspired in each individual by a play, a painting, a poem or a musical piece. Business persons and community leaders, however, often focus as well on the economic impacts of the venues that bring art to a city or region. Apparently, there are several options as to methodology for measuring the economic impact of arts and culture in a community in a way that can be converted into monetary values.[ii] “Spending-measure techniques” examine actual spending by organizations, audiences and artists, together with the effects of that spending on the economy. “Valuation techniques” attempt to quantify the wider benefits people gain from culture, even if no money were to change hands.[iii] Receiving a crash course in both kinds of valuation, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2018 (LT’18) learned from arts and culture directors, together with their sponsors, benefactors and key business leaders, how and to what extent Tampa’s local arts and culture organizations impact the community. The significant economic benefits of the arts and culture, as well as the (more difficult to quantify) social benefits to the community, were clearly articulated and demonstrated to the class.
Jeff Gibson (of MacFarlane Ferguson) and Jim Porter (of Adams and Reese) sponsored Arts & Culture Day, demonstrating their personal devotion and commitment to the arts in Tampa.
The class first visited the Institute for Research in Art’s Graphic Studio at USF, where Margaret Miller, Director, delayed a trip to NYC in order to share her passion for the organization and pride in its accomplishments. The Institute encompasses four programs: Contemporary Art on Campus; Public Art and Social Practice; Art in Health; and the Graphics Studio. Contemporary Art on Campus houses USF’s art collection, which is composed of 5,000 works, many of which are by internationally acclaimed artists. This program puts on temporary exhibitions, designed to keep students and the community abreast of current cultural trends, while promoting dialogue in the international arts community. The Public Art program collaborates on public space projects, working with some of the nation’s most prominent public artists. The Social Engagement piece of the program recently collaborated on a project called The Music Box: Tampa Bay, an interactive public artwork by visiting artists that married architecture, engineering, history and music-making. Director Miller informed the class the Art in Health program currently has programs for enhancing the observational skills of future health professionals and working with traumatically injured aphasia patients. The Graphics Studio hosts carefully-selected artist- in-residence and collaborates on long-term projects using graphics media, including lithographs, cyanotype print (blueprints) and photogravure. The staff was able to show the class how these pieces are engineered and created, sometimes layer by layer, which fascinated and enlightened class members who had never been exposed to such processes.
Next, the LT’18 class was treated to a tour of the Straz Center, which houses five theaters, three restaurants and a teaching conservatory, all under one roof. Mark Breckwald was our host. This extremely popular, non-profit venue derives most of its revenues from its Broadway series, which allows the Straz to host less profitable programs, such as the opera. The economic impact of the Straz includes filling hotel rooms with patrons and cast members, who then spend money in Tampa, making the Straz a sizeable economic driver. The largest performing arts center in the Southeast, the Straz boasts between the third and the fifth most high attendance in the country. The Straz is now looking at how to better serve those in the community who cannot afford tickets.
At the Tampa Museum of Art, the class was treated to a lovely outdoor luncheon, followed by the opportunity to briefly tour the museum’s current exhibits. During lunch, Jeff Gibson spoke to the class, advising that he has been Chairman of the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, funded by the public schools and the county, which “brings arts into schools and schools into art.” In Hillsborough County, he said, the arts fund 15,000 jobs.
Surprise speaker Mary Ann Ferenc, Chair of Visit Florida and owner of Mise en Place Restaurant, revealed that traveling for art and history has become a growing phenomenon in national and international tourism. Visit Florida, the Official Tourism Marketing Corporation for the State of Florida, is working to align restaurants, bars, cultural institutions, historical centers and the arts, marketing them together to tourists. Tourism, Ms. Ferenc said, leads growth, such as the airport expansion, a job creator, while paying 25% of Florida’s sales tax every year. Dr. Michael Tomor, Executive Director of the Museum of Art, speaking to the class, confirmed that arts and culture is a big business. Touring exhibitions come to the museum, as well as local and regional artists, bringing patronage and accompanying expenditures to local hotels, restaurants and other amenities. The Museum also holds 12-14 arts and education programs per year, which are free to the public, in order to make them available to the underserved.
The Museum has partnered with the sports authority, an economic driver, to increase its visibility and publicize Tampa as a venue for conventions. By linking with businesses, the Museum not only promotes itself as a venue for private parties but assists businesses in other ways to meet people and build social capital, find employees and collaborate with the Museum on projects such as financial literacy. Dr. Tomor warned that Tampa must continue to keep up with other major cities if it wants to continue to attract people. The community is growing faster than the Museum facility. He expressed support for the clustering of cultural institutions. In Tampa, nine of them are close together downtown, which enhances opportunities for all.
At the Henry B. Plant Museum, Cynthia Gandee Zinober, Executive Director, advised that the Museum opened in 1933; the original Tampa Bay Hotel, however, opened in 1891, during the “Gilded Age.” The Museum is a “lifestyle” museum, in which the original furnishings are out in the open. Many of the items are over 125 years old! Ms. Zinober (LT class of 2011) created, curates and runs the museum. As the class sat in what used to be the Hotel’s music room, Ms. Zinober described how dancers would slide in and out of the open doorways on a beautiful evening, while the “unescorted women” sat in the balconies and watched over the decorative railings. At the time, the hotel had a staff of 300. The Museum determined to focus on these staff, collecting stories, photos and diaries from family members and others, in order to create an exhibit about the Hotel employees. Sponsored by the Hillsborough Arts Council, the Museum created a series of vignettes, with seven actors playing separate roles, performances of which are held on Sunday afternoons. The class enjoyed a mesmerizing monologue by a laundress who worked seven days a week at the hotel to support her 12 children, meeting Sarah Bernhardt and Anna Pavlova, the Buffalo Soldiers and Babe Ruth. Everyone was moved by the performance, appreciating the actor’s talent and the story she told.
At Stageworks Theatre, Karla Hartley, Producing Artistic Director, introduced the class to a venue many had never heard about. Stageworks was incorporated in 1983, so next year is the 35th Anniversary, making it the longest running theater in Tampa. The three arms of the theater are producing, education and serving the underserved in the community. The Theatre reaches out to youth in juvenile detention, kids in foster care, the homeless, mentally ill children and low-income schools. The goal is simply to use the performing arts to make their lives better.
Vicky Daniel, an actress, is the entire cast of the soon-to-be performed play, The Year of Magical Thinking, based on Joan Dideon’s book of the same name. Ms. Daniel performed a scene from the play, describing the circumstances of the death of her character’s husband and the emotional experience of that tragedy. She talked about the “hard sweet wisdom of the last,” a lesson for survival. Stageworks puts on controversial plays, dealing with uncomfortable subjects, as well as more conventional productions. According to Ms. Hartley, the plays are selected with a vision in mind: to tell a story from another person’s perspective, in order to generate thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit.
The class’s last venue was the Tampa Theater, where John Bell, President and CEO provided a detailed history of the building and its historical and artistic importance, as well as its current restoration project. The theater was designed by John Eberson, who was quite popular at the time, because the owners saw that audiences responded to his design style, which was called “atmospheric theater.” These theaters did not emulate European opera houses, but instead tried to create the experience of a Mediterranean garden at night, with a starry sky overhead. The facility survived until the 1970s, when it became commercially obsolete. When a plan emerged to demolish the theater, the City got involved. Mayor Poe wanted to send a message that downtown Tampa was not going to be abandoned. The Tampa Theatre is operated by a non-profit, Tampa Theatre, Inc., not the City of Tampa.
A sizeable restoration project is underway, with a view to returning the theater as closely as possible to its original appearance. Evergreen, the restoration group, has scraped through layers of paint to discover original colors, and poured over photographs of the theater in its heyday, in order to return it to its original state to the extent possible, while meeting the needs of today’s theater goers. The stately, elaborately decorated organ on the stage moves up and down through a trap door, and is original to the 1920s, if not to Tampa Theatre entirely. The restoration will include new seats, carpeting, a new curtain and new paint to the lobby. The concession stand will be replaced, as it was not original.
After visiting these amazing establishments, LT’18 came away with a more informed idea of the cultural venues existing in Tampa, their costs and offsetting economic benefits to the community, and the impressive extent of the social services and outreach these organizations undertake to help the underserved. “That is why they need us.”
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[i]Audition (The Fools Who Dream) is a song from the film La La Land (2016). The music of the song was composed by Justin Hurwitz while the lyrics were provided by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. In the film, the song is performed by Emma Stone. It received a nomination for Best Original Song at the 89th Academy Awards.
[ii] Measuring the Economic Benefits of Arts and Culture, Arts Council England (May 2012) http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/download-file/Measuring_the_economic_benefits_of_arts_and_culture.pdf