Flagler County, FL – Bringing together high performance individuals, with even higher expectations, into a single think-tank situation can be challenging to manage, but on the morning of Friday, May 28th, those who showed up to be part of the fledgling Local Arts Agency in development, didn’t show out.

Leaving egos at the door, heads of the area’s arts, culture and history organizations gathered at the table in the Flagler County Tourism Department’s office to begin the conversation about what a nonprofit organization, led by members of the community, could look like and what purpose it would serve as an autonomous agency.

With a focus on less competition and more collaboration, Palm Coast resident Richard Hamilton, a longtime supporter of arts and culture in Flagler County is helping to co-chair the formative efforts alongside Ed Siarkowski, who currently serves as the president of the Flagler County Historical Society, among his many hats.

“This past Friday we had a meeting of the steering committee of the local arts agency for Flagler County whose goal is to unite all cultural, historical and arts aspects of the county, primarily to bring tourism and cultural enrichment to Flagler County residents,” said Siarkowicz.

Helping to create and designate the 501©3, the tourism office sees it as a way to showcase the many historic, artistic and cultural assets Flagler County has to offer, while allowing the citizen-led nonprofit to lead the discussion on projects and goals for the organization’s future.

Working closely with Hamilton to compile models of other arts, cultural and heritage organizations – or ACHs as they’re commonly known, Flagler County tourism office destination development manger Debra Naughton was excited by the diversity of organizations in attendance, and the willingness of community members to step up and help with the heavy lifting.

“We brought together all interested entities from multiple disciplines in performing art, historical and cultural societies, and community members that may be interested in working together to create a local arts agency that will eventually be designated by the board of county commissioners, which will give them the authority to go ahead and apply for various state and federal funds that are available through various cultural and historical and arts fund programs,” explained Naughton.

In the past Flagler County has attempted to help create various arts and culture-based committees and councils but they have fizzled out.

“I’m encouraged. I’ve been here with the tourism office for about seven years. At the time when I started they were trying to pull together an arts council and everybody worked very hard but it kind of fell apart,” said Naughton.

“Through our strategic plan we found that people are still very interested in that, so there was a lot of research, and a lot of conversation about how can we get this up and running again but really bring it forward and run, so that’s kind of what we’re working on now, is creating that,” she said.

“I’m excited that the County clearly understands the impact such a collaboration could have on broadening the scope of interests among residents and visitors,” said Palm Coast Arts Foundation executive director Nancy Crouch.

“Every survey reveals that arts and culture is a high priority and while all of our cultural organizations operate mostly as volunteers, it is refreshing that finally some serious attention by the County to harness these innovative and creative groups and forming this new Local Arts and Culture agency allows more opportunities to secure major funding from federal sources.  Arts, culture, and history; necessary components to a well-rounded community.”

A gathering of the arts, culture and heritage community across Flagler County on Friday, facilitated by Flagler County’s Tourism Office, is setting the area on a path to wide scale collaboration and a streamlined promotion of the area’s assets.

From longtime arts advocates like City Repertory Theatre’s John Sbordone and Gargiulo Art Foundation’s founder and CEO Tom Gargiulo, and newly formed cultural events earning national recognition like the Palm Coast Songwriters Festival led by Garry Lubi, to the inclusion of Flagler Beach Economic Development Task Force members like architect Joseph Pozzuoli and Flagler Beach Historical Museum director Kathy Wilcox, both part of the Flagler Beach Creates efforts, on Friday, as each looked around the full table and at the overflow seating, something felt different.

“There seems to be a genuine interest to create an all-inclusive arts, culture and history organization that will collaboratively champion the missions of all of these humanitarian interests,” said Sbordone.

“I think most important is that this is not representing any specific industry or entity or organization in the community, it is a group of people with vast experience and knowledge that they’re bringing to the table to form a new group to help all of those organizations, and that’s the key,” said Naughton.

For more information, email Debra Naughton at dnaughton@visitflagler.com.





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