HERNANDO COUNTY, FL – The Hernando County Fine Arts Council dreamed of a cultural arts center in Hernando County that could attract national acts, as well as offer artists space for a gallery, exhibitions, classrooms, workspace for artists, rehearsal space, and storage. Maybe even a coffee shop. Mindful of past efforts that started strong, but collapsed before the dream became reality, they conducted a market assessment with the DLR Group, experts in the field.
The study set out to answer the questions: Can Hernando County support a cultural arts center? Is there a demand from artists for new studio and gallery space? Are there gaps in the existing inventory of cultural arts facilities that a new or renovated facility could fill? After nearly a year of research, the answer was mixed. “Being a member of the Hernando Symphony Orchestra that needs a home, I was disappointed that DLR said the time isn’t right for Hernando County to support a new cultural arts center,” said W. D. “Bill” Yerrick, Arts Council facility team leader and past Council Chairman. While research showed only moderate demand for rehearsal and performance space, there was a significant demand for gallery/exhibition and private workspace, and a high demand for classroom and workshop space.
So where does that leave the Arts Council? “We are lacing up our tennis shoes and getting to work,” said Beth Putnam, current chair of the council. “Although the County can’t support a cultural facility at this time, the consultant recommended ways to help grow audiences and support for the arts now, laying the groundwork for broad support of a cultural center in the future.
One recommendation was to meet with Stage West Playhouse in Spring Hill, the only purpose-built venue in the county, to see if it could accommodate some of the need for gallery, classroom, or workshop space. Stage West has since inventoried its spaces they could make available to the arts community to help meet their needs. The Arts Council and Stage West have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to collaborate to benefit the arts and have begun exploring future projects.
The next big goal is for the Council to grow its capacity to lead in advocacy, policy, and funding. Having been created by the County to support all creative arts countywide and designated by the state as Hernando County Lead Arts Agency, Putnam says, “We were created to fulfill this umbrella role and the time is right to step up.” The challenge, according to Putnam, is creating a true arts community from the more than 300 arts-related businesses and other artists who operate in their own spheres. Our first step toward that goal is inviting visual and performing arts, arts organizations, art-related businesses, and art supporters to our next Council meeting May 13, 5:30-7 PM at Hernando Beach Marine Group Training Center, 4340 Calienta Street, Hernando Beach, FL. “County Commissioner Wayne Dukes will be on the agenda,” said Putnam, “and we hope for a great turnout so he will be able to report back to the Board of County Commissioners that there is support for the arts in Hernando County.” More information will be given about the Market Assessment and the Arts Council’s plans for the future at that meeting as well. To view the Market Assessment for a New Cultural Facility in Hernando County, visit https://www.hernandoarts.org/documents.
The Hernando County Fine Arts Council was created in 1987 by the Board of County Commissioners to encourage, promote, and support all the creative arts in Hernando County and provide a means to showcase the arts. To learn more about how you can help support the arts in Hernando County, visit www.HernandoArts.org. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Beth Putnam, 352-573-8208.