Grants could shore up theater plan
By JORGE SANCHEZ
© St. Petersburg Times,
HERNANDO -- The oft-stalled plan to build a new performing art theater at the Citrus County Art League received a major boost recently, as two major funding grants await only a signature from Gov. Jeb Bush for final approval.
The two grants total $118,000 and will be used to hire a part-time staffer -- the first ever in the art league's 30-year history -- and as seed money to break ground on the new 200-seat theater.
"I feel very confident about these two grants," said Sharon Harris, newly elected art league president.
Harris wrote the application for the two grants from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, an agency of the Secretary of State. Harris said the grants, one for $10,000 for the part-time staffer and a second one for $108,000 for the building, have cleared all the hurdles and are being sent by Secretary of State Katherine Harris to the governor for final approval.
"I just spoke with the Cultural Affairs office today and was reassured the funding was there," Harris said Friday.
The $108,000 is a matching grant, which means the state matches every $2 the art league currently has with $1. This gives the art league $324,000 to begin the project, and the grant can be renewed for five years, Harris said. The building plans call for a 200-seat performing arts center adjacent to the current art league theater at 2644 N Annapolis Ave.
The art league has been trying during the past six years to get funding to expand its facilities on N Annapolis Avenue, only to have its expectations dashed as fundraising efforts stalled.
Acknowledging that, Harris said:
"These grants are included in the secretary of state's final recommendations to the governor. The money's there. It survived the most recent round of budget cuts. We've got a lot of green lights behind us, so I have every reason to feel very confident."
Harris, who was installed as president of the art league earlier this month, said she envisions construction beginning on the new theater early next year.
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