Arts Organizations Take Center Stage at City Event

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The significance of the arts to the city’s economy and identity was in focus on the morning of Dec. 12 as local leaders joined members of the Winter Park Arts & Cultural Alliance at Winter Park Events Center for Illumination: A Spotlight on Arts and Culture.

Local efforts aimed at spotlighting arts organizations began in 2016 as a product of the Vision Winter Park initiative. The Winter Park Arts & Cultural Alliance, currently made up of 20 local organizations, was launched in 2017 with the mission of enhancing and improving “awareness and visibility of the non-profit arts and culture organizations within the City of Winter Park limits which offer programming to the public.” The alliance also markets the city as an arts and culture destination, and acts as an extension of the City of Winter Park Communications Department.

Guests mingle with the leaders of Winter Park Arts and Culture Alliance member organizations.
Harpist Deanna Carolina plays as guests arrive.
Meghan Hone and Theresa Smith-Levin of Central Florida Vocal Arts speak with attendees.
The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival display included information and a selection of event posters.
Winter Park Playhouse executive director Heather Alexander shares behind-the-scenes information.
Winter Park History Museum director Christy Grieger and executive assistant Dena Salas show copies of historical photos.
Singers from Central Florida Vocal Arts perform “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” at the start of the program.
City of Winter Park Communications director Clarissa Howard welcomes guests and kicks off the presentations.

The Dec. 12 program highlighted efforts to raise awareness and support for the arts, and provided information on the collective impact of local organizations and events.

Measuring the impact

According to a fiscal year 2022 survey of alliance members, local arts groups offered the Winter Park community more than 6,000 creative opportunities, 2,700 learning opportunities for students, and free events for 787,000 patrons. The arts community also creates jobs with 16 member organizations employing a total of 77 full-time and 185 part-time positions, along with the services of 923 contractors. However, as the member organizations are nonprofits, focus on maintaining sustainability and support is crucial. Approximately 54% of artists who produced work for the alliance were not compensated in 2022, and several member organizations lack the funding for many essential benefits for paid workers.

Making the case

Winter Park Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert discusses art as “good business.”

During her comments, Winter Park Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert noted efforts by the Chamber to advocate for the restoration of full funding to the state’s Arts and Cultural Matching Grant Program since it was slashed in 2019 from a 100% match to a 5% match. The cuts dropped Florida’s rank in national arts funding from 4th to 48th.

“Arts and cultural organizations make up 18% of Winter Park’s economy,” she said. “So much of what goes on here economically is directly tied to the arts – as the Chamber, it’s our job to tell this side of the story.”

The participation of government and business leaders in a traveling delegation to address the state legislature in Tallahassee has resulted in an 85% restoration of the funding. Gardner Eckbert vowed to keep the effort a priority until the match is fully restored.

“Our participation in the alliance allows us to stay close to the priorities of Winter Park’s arts and culture organizations,” she said. “It enables us to provide stronger advocacy, resources, and opportunities that not only meet your needs, but align with the values of this community.”

A gift from Edyth

Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation president and CEO David Odahowski announces a $50,000 commitment to the alliance.

Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation president and CEO David Odahowski also spoke about the role of community arts, and the responsibility of community leaders to ensure its accessibility.

“Philanthropy serves as a cornerstone for artistic appreciation, innovation, and cultural preservation,” he said. “Philanthropic contributions to the arts help insure that it is accessible to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status, and that it continues to be an integral part of our daily lives.”

As an example, and in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, Odahowski announced the foundation’s commitment of $50,000 to the alliance. City of Winter Park Communications director Clarissa Howard later stated that the contribution will help fund a new Senior Advisor of Arts and Culture position that the city is currently looking to fill.

The big picture

Randy Cohen, vice president of research for Americans for the Arts, details the local results of a 2022 national survey on the economic impact of arts organizations.

The event was capped off by remarks from Randy Cohen, vice president of research for the Americans for the Arts advocacy organization. Cohen reviewed local results from the 2022 “Arts & Economic Prosperity 6” study, in which 373 regions in all 50 states and Puerto Rico took part.

Cohen stated that arts and culture accounted for $44.3 million in economic activity throughout the city of Winter Park. Additional impacts of local arts organizations and events include:

  • 850 jobs across the community
  • $36.1 million in personal income/payroll
  • $10 million in government revenue
  • $22.9 million spent by event attendees with the typical patron spending $40.67 (not including the cost of admission)

Of the event attendees polled:

  • 43% traveled from outside Orange County
  • 12% spent $207 per person per day on lodging
  • 81% came to Winter Park specifically for the arts event

Cohen also noted the service, trade, and technology industries impacted by the arts; from restaurateurs to IT professionals and transportation-related jobs. “Most people think about arts as an industry when they see curators or musicians,” he said. “Whether the arts are happening in a large city or in a rural community, economic impact is happening there as well.”

For more information on the Winter Park Arts & Cultural Alliance, visit, and subscribe to the alliance newsletter.

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