Central Florida cultural group receives 2023 United Arts Fund grant

Thanks for the support of the federal government National Endowment for the Artsthe annual grant to keep Central Florida cultural nonprofits afloat increased by $100,000 and benefited five additional organizations.

A total of 42 arts, history and science nonprofits passed United Arts College of Central FloridaAnnual Operations Support Grant for , which was approved at the advocacy agency’s December board meeting. These funds are vital to local organizations as they can be used to cover basic operational needs – utility bills, building maintenance, etc. Since 2019, United Arts has increased available funding by $1 million to $2.4 million approved for FY 2023.

“Operating funds are hard to come by, and we know they will be used to strengthen our entire cultural sector,” United Arts CEO Jennifer Evans said in announcing the grant.

Celebration Theater Company productions include the 2021 "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

The five organizations that did not receive funding in 2022 but received a $10,000 grant in 2023 are Celebration Theater Company, which presents musicals at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts; Chance2Dance, which provides dance opportunities for people with various health challenges ; Mood Dance, a contemporary theater company; Howey Mansion Music Series, which offers concerts of all genres; and HAPCO Music Foundation, which creates music education programs, especially for youth in underserved communities.

Four of the organizations were first-time grant recipients; HAPCO received a small award in 2017.

United Arts is increasing the minimum grant amount to $10,000 this year. Arisa Kusumi Sullivan, executive and artistic director of the first-time honoree Howey Mansion Music Series, called the funding “vital to the survival and growth of most arts organizations in Central Florida.”

Emotions Dance is the first-time recipient of the United College of the Arts' 2023 Annual Operations Support Grant.

In 2023, no organization saw a reduction in grants, and many saw an increase in funding.

As usual, the biggest recipients were some of Central Florida’s most prominent cultural organizations. Six nonprofits received six-figure sums: Orlando Philharmonic ($276,800), Orlando Ballet ($271,300), Orlando Science Center ($271,200), Orlando Milkshake ($245,700), Orlando Repertory Theater ( $181,400) and the Orlando Museum of Art ($159,400).

“The Orlando Philharmonic is grateful for the support of Central Florida United Arts College and their recognition of the importance of general operational support,” Orlando Philharmonic Executive Director Paul Helfridge said in the announcement. “It’s both the most important support we’ve ever had and the hardest to raise.”

Organizations apply for grants each July and must provide programming as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for at least three years. Applicants are screened for eligibility and their financial documents are reviewed for trends in stability, sustainability and management.

On March 5, 2022, the Orlando Philharmonic's inaugural performance at Steinmetz Hall, under the baton of Music Director Eric Jacobson, received United Arts' largest 2023 operational support grant.

A panel of community volunteers then scores the applications based on artistic, historical or scientific excellence, merit and community impact. United Arts said the panelists have experience in the arts, arts education and nonprofit management, reflecting the diversity of the community, as half of them are nonwhite. The score determines the reward amount.

In addition to this year’s National Endowment for the Arts donation, funding to support the initiative comes from individuals, corporations, foundations, and the Orlando and Orange County governments.

Find me on Twitter @matt_on_arts, facebook.com/matthew.j.palm or email me mpalm@orlandosentinel.com. Want more theater and arts news and reviews?go OrlandoSentinel.com/arts.