Cutting arts funding in South Florida will deliver a blow to our economy | Opinion

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to slash $32 million in state arts and cultural grants from the budget is not just a funding cut; it’s a blow to the heart of South Florida’s cultural landscape.

While some may see this as merely a fiscal move, the repercussions of such actions extend far beyond balance sheets and spreadsheets.

Nonprofit arts and culture organizations contributed $2 billion to our state’s economy in 2022, and this week’s action will significantly impact organizations that make our communities better places to live and work.

By vetoing funds, the governor is effectively stifling creativity, hindering community enrichment, and jeopardizing the future of arts education programs across the state. As a cornerstone of South Florida’s theater community, GableStage understands firsthand the transformative power of the arts. The arts ignite conversations, inspire audiences and challenge perspectives. Beyond the stage, arts and cultural organizations serve as economic engines.

These funds are not frivolous handouts but investments in our collective well-being and prosperity.

By cutting funding to arts and cultural institutions, Gov. DeSantis is also depriving students of valuable learning experiences these organizations offer—experiences that foster creativity and critical thinking and contribute to future success. Studies conducted by the UK Cultural Learning Alliance revealed compelling statistics: children from low-income families participating in structured arts activities are three times more likely to earn a degree.

Moreover, these activities lead to a 17% increase in cognitive abilities and improved performance in core subjects like math and English. Art education is not a luxury but essential for developing well-rounded individuals who can navigate an increasingly complex world.

It’s essential to recognize that the arts are not about entertainment; they are a reflection of our humanity, our values, and our identity as a society.

By devaluing arts and culture, we undermine the essence of what it means to be human. South Florida’s vibrant cultural scene is one of its greatest assets, attracting tourists, businesses and talent from around the world. To jeopardize this for short-term budgetary gains is shortsighted and ultimately self-defeating.

We call on every member of our community who has ever enjoyed, been employed in, or supported the arts to voice their concerns and consider assisting us in meeting a critical funding gap.

We also urge Gov. DeSantis to attend a show, have a conversation with our local arts leaders and restore funding.

The future of South Florida’s economy, education and identity depends on it.

We cannot afford to sacrifice our cultural vitality on the altar of fiscal austerity.

Bari Newport is Producing Artistic Director for GableStage.