‘Serious gut punch.’ DeSantis eliminates state arts, culture funding for dozens of South Florida organizations


Theater, visual art, dance, music and other cultural and artistic organizations are scrambling to close unexpected budget shortfalls after Gov. Ron DeSantis wiped out state arts and culture grants.

DeSantis used his veto authority to eliminate $32 million that would have gone to large and small organizations throughout the state. The money was appropriated months ago by the Florida Legislature, and recipients expected it would begin flowing in coming weeks.

“It was a shocker. It was a stunner,” said Marjorie Waldo, president and CEO of Arts Garage, the Delray Beach venue that offers live music, theater, comedy, visual arts and more.

“Something like this could literally be the death knell for some organizations, and succeed in doing what COVID could not,” Steven Haines, executive director of the Symphony of the Americas, whose organization’s 37th season begins this fall at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. “We don’t want to sound alarmist, but yet it’s an alarming situation.”

And Phillip Dunlap, director of the Broward County Cultural Division, and Janet Erlick, chair of the county Cultural Council, wrote on a county-run arts website that the art and culture community “took a serious gut punch” when DeSantis vetoed the money.

Eliminated were:

— 50 grants to Broward entities that collectively would have received $2.5 million.

— 51 grants totaling $3.1 million for organizations in Palm Beach County.

— 123 grants totaling $6.5 million for Miami-Dade County groups.

The funding in question amounted to small change for state government — a small fraction of 1% of the $116.5 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The reasoning behind DeSantis’s decision on the arts and culture spending wasn’t clear; the governor’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

State Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-Lighthouse Point, said he didn’t know the rationale behind the veto, and he had no indication the arts and culture money was in jeopardy.

“I’m disappointed in the cut,” LaMarca said. “I would have liked to see it fully funded.”

In the days since the governor signed the budget into law on June 12 and outlined his vetoes, LaMarca said he’s probably heard more reactions from people in the community about the arts and culture funding than about anything else.



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