Florida has the dubious honor of being ranked 48th in the nation for funding for the arts — its total investment represents just 0.003 percent of the state budget. That means a drop to just $2.65 million for all arts organizations statewide. If you consider the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs’ recommendation of more than $41.6 million, the amount is a far cry from a compromise.
Before the cuts, statewide funding met organizations a little closer to the middle. Funding had ranged from $11 million to $24 million. The news put many local organizations in crisis mode as they had planned for a similar amount to be awarded for general program support, which often covers essential operating costs.
To help remedy this shortfall, The Gobioff Foundation, a private family foundation that works to support human rights organizations and the Tampa arts community, has stepped in to help out with the Tampa Bay Arts Bridge Fund at the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay Arts Bridge Fund is similar to a disaster relief fund, which the public can donate to, as the arts organizations are facing catastrophic effects from the cuts in funding.
“This was a devastating blow for many of our arts organizations, who now must look at cutting vital programming,” said Neil Gobioff, president of the Gobioff Foundation. “The Tampa Bay Arts Bridge Fund is a short-term solution to get the organizations through this season as they look at other ways to generate this portion of the operating funding they had depended on from the state.”
The Gobioff Foundation’s initial $100,000 donation to the Tampa Bay Arts Bridge Fund was matched by The Vinik Family Foundation. Now, the goal is to mobilize the Tampa Bay community and raise the $2.49 million shortfall between the amount 32 Hillsborough and Pinellas County organizations qualified to receive from the state and the amount actually received.
A Tampa-based writer who became involved with Jobsite Theater two decades ago — first as a playwright followed by backstage work in various capacities as a stage manager, sound guy and board member — has been on both sides of the table addressing nonprofit budgetary challenges. His later work with the foundation founded by brother Howard Gobioff in 2007, months before his unexpected passing from lymphoma in March 2008, has become an outgrowth of Neil’s and wife Gianna Rendina-Gobioff’s fervent interests in the arts. They both have been active with the foundation since then and have assisted an impressively wide range of projects. In October 2017, Gianna and Neil were honored by Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts with their Patrons of Culture and the Arts — Impact Award.
“We were hearing from our grantees about the impact of the State of Florida Budget,” Neil said. “They were telling us how they were going to have to make changes to their programming for the year. We decided we needed to do something, but we don’t have the capability ourselves to help everyone so we decided to work on a method where we pooled resources with other funders and the public.”
All the funds will be distributed this fall to 32 area arts organizations that provide direct arts programming such as art museums, performing arts centers, visual arts exhibits, and arts education.
The Tampa Bay Arts Bridge Fund will benefit 32 arts organizations that had applied for general operating funding from the state and were recommended for funding by the state Division of Cultural Affairs. The funding will be proportionate with the amount they were approved to receive from the state. Tax-deductible donations to help fill the gap can be made at cftampabay.org/artsbridge.