Palm Beach County is known as one of the most culturally rich regions in the country, with more than 200 arts and cultural organizations that offer programming, education and enriching experiences to residents and visitors. Tourists come here for world-class art and culture, and the community benefits from the arts industry, which employs more than 14,000 people and generates $633 million in economic impact annually.
The success and growth of the arts and cultural sector is due, in part, to the work of the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, which celebrates its 40th Anniversary this year. As the organization celebrates a major milestone, it also reflects on its history.
Forty years ago a group of visionaries led by businessman and inventor Alexander W. Dreyfoos established the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County (originally called the Palm Beach County Council of the Arts) with the hope of making The Palm Beaches a premier cultural center. Some of the Council’s highlights over the past four decades include a community needs assessment, conducted in 1979 under the leadership of its first executive director Judy Goodman, which led to the campaign to build the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. The Council was instrumental in establishing the Armory Art Center and the Center for Creative Education. In 1982, the Council’s efforts led to voter approval of the Tourist Development Tax Campaign for the Arts, which has currently provided $100 million in funding for arts and cultural organization from hotel bed tax revenue. In 2002, the Council successfully advocated for a $50 million bond to support cultural and recreational facilities that helped renovate Old School Square’s Crest Theatre, Johnson History Museum, South Florida Science Center and Aquarium and other locations. And, in 2012, the Council opened its new headquarters in Lake Worth, a gift from The Montgomery Family in memory of Robert M. Montgomery, Jr., a philanthropist and former Council chairman. The building has become a resource for local artists, visitors and the community.
”The Cultural Council has played a central role in transforming Palm Beach County into the arts and culture resource for residents and visitors that it is today,” said Nathan Slack, Cultural Council board chairman. “Founder, Alex Dreyfoos and Founding Executive Director Judy Goodman believed in the value of arts and culture in enhancing and sustaining strong economic and societal growth. Today we are carrying this vision into the future and planning for the next 40 years of growth and progress for the cultural sector.”
As it enters its 40th anniversary year, the Cultural Council has completed a comprehensive strategic planning process focused on initiatives that will fulfill the need for expanded arts and cultural experiences in Palm Beach County, define the Council’s promise to unite the cultural sector and reinforce ties among the arts, business, government and tourism industries. Some of the strategies over the next five years include co-designing a more efficient grants process in collaboration with cultural organizations and the county; sharpening the Council’s brand and value proposition to various audiences; and diversifying private funding sources so that the Council can continue to grow and operate its building as a community resource.
“Fundraising is critical to the future of the Council,” said Slack. “Approximately 50 percent of our budget comes from private donations. These gifts support professional artists and musicians, arts education programs for K-12 students, as well as capacity building programs and advocacy efforts for cultural organizations. We invite philanthropists who want to support this work across the county to partner with us.”
One initiative that has already launched from the strategic plan is the formation of a Cultural Coalition. This group of 75 executives from large and small organizations in the areas of arts, sciences and historic preservation, has begun to meet regularly to discuss important issues and challenges in the sector and find solutions together.
“Palm Beach County is on the cusp of tremendous growth,” said Irvin Lippman, executive director of the Boca Museum of Art and co-chair of the Cultural Coalition. “We know that more than $500 million in expansions and renovations to arts and cultural facilities are being planned in the next five years. As cultural leaders, we believe a strong, united sector is key to bringing about smart growth and enhancing the quality of life for the community.”
Another important project that the Council will steward over the next few years is the completion of the “Project Space,” the lot behind the Montgomery Building on L Street in Lake Worth. The Council received state funding to clean, sod and fence the area, which is now being used to house large-scale sculpture on loan from CANVASTM Outdoor Museum. Phase 2 will get underway once funding is secured and calls for additional landscaping, benches, movable sculpture pedestals and a performance stage to host local musicians and small music and art festivals.
The future is colorful in Palm Beach County. In addition to its beautiful beaches and other attributes, it is culture that makes The Palm Beaches stand out among travel destinations, business locations and places to live, work and grow. With a vision for the future, the Cultural Council is celebrating with a season of community outreach and events.
Cultural Council 40th Anniversary Season Highlights:
Art & Décor, February 16 – May 1
Eight interior designers are paired with eight professional artists to create a custom vignette of a room inspired by artwork. Acclaimed interior designer Gil Walsh selected the designers featured in the exhibition.
2018 Muse Awards, March 22, Cohen Pavilion at Kravis Center for the Performing Arts
This biannual fundraising event will celebrate 40 years of supporting arts and culture in Palm Beach County, wish founder Alexander W. Dreyfoos a happy birthday, and honor outstanding arts and cultural organizations and individuals for their contributions to Palm Beach County with performances by some of the county’s most talented artists. Please see palmbeachculture.com/muse.
Educators and Artists, May 25 – August 18
Visitors will see an exhibition of artwork by the faculty of the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts.
Family Saturdays, monthly Family Saturdays at the Cultural Council is a free intergenerational program where families discover the arts together and interact with arts professionals from Palm Beach County cultural organizations. Please see palmbeachculture.com/family.
To see a comprehensive historic timeline, learn more about the exhibitions and programs, or to get involved with the Cultural Council by becoming a member or making a donation, please visit palmbeachculture.com/40years.