Artistic cash grab 

Art groups will learn Sept. 26 who will land $475,000 worth of cultural tourism grants, the first-ever art subsidies handed out by Orange County government.

Twenty-four groups put in for $1.65 million from the county's Arts and Cultural Affairs office, meaning there will be more than a few disappointed faces when the awards are announced.

"It's trepidatious because we won't be able to meet even a third of the requests," says Terry Olson, the county's Arts and Cultural Affairs administrator.

Among the groups requesting big bucks: the Orlando Science Center, which wants $300,000 for a traveling forensic exhibit and a large-format movie of coral reefs in Fiji and Australia; the Festival of Orchestras, which wants $250,000 to bring five world-class symphonies to Orlando; and the Orlando Museum of Art, which wants $150,000 for a Monet exhibit to be shown only in Orlando and Caen, France.

Two art groups were disqualified because their projects likely wouldn't lure tourists to Orange County. Grant monies come from the $90 million tourist-development tax fund, which, according to state law, must be spent to promote tourism.

Judges awarded points to projects based on how exciting they are, how well they will promote tourism, how ready the group is to pursue them and how unique they are, among other criteria.

Groups that feel slighted by the eight-member selection committee will have a chance to present a one-page rebuttal Oct. 2. The full 13-member Arts and Cultural Affairs Council will vote on the selections Oct. 9, followed by approval of the Board of County Commissioners Oct. 29.

Some of the groups seeking grant money were put off by the cumbersome, 16-page application that included blank pages for applicants to portray their project in general terms. A marketing question, for example, asked for a description based on "geographic, demographic and psychographic" terms.

Julie Coleman, owner of the Orlando School of Cultural Dance in Pine Hills, considered applying for $50,000 to teach 50 at-risk children. But she couldn't wade through the application. "We're a small grass-roots organization," Coleman says. "We don't have someone we pay to be a grant writer."

The Arts Council has another pot of cash, $25,000, it will distribute to smaller art groups. The application for the "micro grants," which will be awarded in 2003, should be simpler. Check the rankings Sept. 26 at

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