With little more discussion than a round of thanks, Sarasota County commissioners voted quickly and unanimously Wednesday to award $1.58 million in Tourist Development Cultural/Arts grants to 31 groups for 2015.
The Englewood Arts Center, a branch of the Ringling College of Art and Design, and the Sarasota Concert Association were the only first-time applicants added to the list. Two organizations that received funding for 2014 — the Banyan Theatre Company and the Carreño Dance Festival – did not apply this year.
The grants, which are generated by Sarasota County's half-cent tourist tax, support arts and cultural nonprofits that bring tourist dollars into the county.
The larger North County organizations had dominated applications in past years, prompting commissioners two years ago to request the grant committee increase its outreach efforts to South County groups. They suggested 10 percent of the total funding should go to nonprofits south of Blackburn Point Road in Osprey. Because the Sarasota Chalk Festival moved its event to Venice earlier this year, that distribution reached 13 percent for 2015.
"Our goal is to make sure we stay completely transparent and that all the organizations get a fair shake," said Jim Shirley, executive director of the Arts Alliance of Sarasota County, which oversees the grant selection process. "As long as they bring tourists dollars to the county, we're happy."
In general, the largest organizations — among them, the opera, the ballet and the orchestra — received minimally smaller grants, while a few smaller organizations received boosts.
Most significantly, the Venice Symphony, which received $7,733 last year, was awarded $38,808 toward the grand opening celebration of the new Venice Performing Arts Center, which will take place later this year.
2015 TDC Arts Grants
(2014 grants in parentheses)
Art Center Sarasota: $39,652 ($36,773)
Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota: $34,405 ($38,810)
Asolo Repertory Theatre: $86,990 ($88,397)
Avenida de Colores (Chalk Festival): $47,185 ($49,471)
Circus Arts Conservatory: $84,562 ($89,169)
Coexistence (Embracing Our Differences): $46,179 ($32,970)
Englewood Art Center, Ringling College of Art and Design: $13,853 (did not apply)
Florida Studio Theatre: $86,548 ($89,308)
Fuzion Dance Artists: $5,616 ($4,523)
Gloria Musicae: $10,906 ($10,489)
Gulf Coast Heritage Association: $46,980 (did not apply)
Jazz Club of Sarasota: $14,159 ($12,704)
Key Chorale: $17,532 ($17,379)
La Musica: $17,872 ($17,927)
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens: $83,899 ($91,131)
Mote Marine: $86,548 ($87,486)
Perlman Music Program/Suncoast: $42,921 ($39,160)
Players Theater: $48,951 ($51,554)
Ringling Museum: $83,457 ($75,509)
Sarasota Ballet: $84,340 ($89,309)
Sarasota Concert Association: $20,984 (did not apply)
Sarasota Film Festival: $86,990 ($90,220)
Sarasota Opera: $83,899 ($90,220)
Sarasota Orchestra: $86,548 ($91,131)
Sarasota Pops: $5,488 ($4,993)
Selby Gallery, Ringling College of Art and Design: $33,736 (did not apply)
Van Wezel Foundation: $85,224 ($91,131)
Venice Art Center: $31,517 ($30,797)
Venice Little Theatre: $83,899 ($89,309)
Venice Symphony: $30,808 ($7,733)
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe: $48,952 ($49,992)