Arts Council History

Today’s Arts Council began in 1967 when the State Legislature created the Arts Council of Tampa as a public authority and gave it three mandates:

  • Promote, coordinate and develop the arts,
  • Contract for artistic services, performances and exhibitions, and
  • Develop a center or complex of facilities for the arts.

The Council initiated the Artists-in-the-Schools program under contract with the Hillsborough County School Board, helped develop the Tampa Museum of Art in 1979, helped found the Artist’s Alliance, ran a storefront gallery from 1977-1981, assumed management, programming, and restoration of the Tampa Theatre in 1976 and created numerous publications, programs, public art initiatives, and outreach efforts as the needs and opportunities arose. On October 1, 1989, the Arts Council of Tampa was abolished by the State Legislature and the Arts Council of Hillsborough County was created by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.

The budget in 1967-1968 was $12,000, and the staff was one secretary. For the next five years, however, the Council sponsored numerous events, published a periodic calendar of events, presented a county-wide festival, and partnered with other organizations to promote the arts. In 1972, the Council hired its first Executive Director with funds from the Junior League of Tampa and the staff subsequently grew to 15 full-time employees and numerous part-time employees.

Today, the Arts Council has seven employees, three of whom work with the School Board of Hillsborough County to ensure arts events are available to public school students. The finance staff work closely with the Tampa Theatre, Firehouse Cultural Center, Community Stepping Stones and other community outreach organizations as well as the Arts Council’s sister organization, Hillsborough Arts, Inc.

Other program services include grant programs for nonprofit cultural organizations, individual artist grants, arts-in-education programs for the Hillsborough County School District, the online calendar of events ArtsTampaBay, an online provider directory of cultural programming, monthly arts networking meetings, workshops and special events. The Arts Council also provides executive representation of the arts on local government committees, task forces and community outreach organizations.

Related informationHillsborough County Cultural Plan – Comprehensive publication defines six long-range goals. Recommends actions and funding to develop culture in Hillsborough County.