Director, Broward County Cultural Division
By Steven O. Evans, PhD
Phil Dunlap brings his innovative thinking and a collaborative style to the Broward Cultural Division, where he has served as Director since 2019. As a leader in the arts, he plays a significant role in Broward’s growth as an arts and culture powerhouse. Phil sat down with OutClique to talk about our local arts scene and some things to come.
Steven O. Evans, PhD: Tell us about the Broward County Cultural Division.
Phil Dunlap: The Cultural Division is Broward County’s designated Local Arts Agency (LAA). We are an Agency of Broward County government with the mission of enhancing Broward’s cultural environment through development of the arts. We have a team of around 20 full and part time individuals dedicated to our mission. As the Director of the Cultural Division, I am the Director of the Broward Cultural Council, which is a 24-member Council made up of 18 individuals appointed by the County Commission, five that represent the League of Cities, Broward School Board, the Broward Alliance, our grantee organizations, and the Tourist Development Council. Also serving on the Council is County Commissioner Steve Geller, who is currently the Broward County Mayor.
Our funding comes from a mixture of County general fund revenue and Tourist Development Tax dollars and is approved by the County Commission each year during the annual budget process.
In all, the Division’s annual budget is around $7 million, with an additional $2-3 million in Capital Appropriations for our public art program.
SOE: What are some of the services that the Division provides?
PD: We have four public-facing areas of focus, which make up most of our work: Grants, Public Art, Marketing, and Community Engagement. Our Grants section provides nearly $5 million each year in support of artists and arts and culture organizations, while providing capacity building programs like our upcoming Business Skills for Creatives series of workshops.
Our Public Art & Design program is more than 40 years old and manages dozens of ongoing projects in County facilities, including Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale International Airport.
Our Marketing section promotes our programs and services to the community and promotes the events of our grantee organizations. In addition to our main website, Broward.org/Arts, the Division runs ArtsCalendar.com, which is a great resource for discovering arts and culture events happening all around South Florida. Our Community Engagement section supports community development initiatives like Destination Sistrunk and also leads our Arts Education and Arts Advocacy initiatives.
SOE:What are some of the organizations, performances, exhibitions, and commissions the division supports?
PD: In all, we provide financial support to more than 80 non-profit arts organizations, including Island City Stage, Coral Springs Chinese Cultural Association, Gold Coast Jazz Society, World Aids Museum, ArtServe, Gay Mens Chorus of South Florida, South Florida Symphony, Museum of Discovery and Science, and the list goes on! The bulk of our grant dollars focus on providing support for organizations’ General Operations, which is generally the most desired type of funding, since it is not tied to a specific project or program. For the upcoming fiscal year, our proposed grants budget includes nearly $3.5 million in General Operating Support grants and $367k in Program Support grants. Individual Artists are also eligible for funding through the Division, but those applications are not due just yet, so I can’t tell you exactly who is being recommended for support. But I can tell you that we have allocated more than $230k in direct support for artists in the upcoming fiscal year. With the support of the County Mayor, Steve Geller, we were able to secure a nearly 6% increase to our grants budget for FY22, which builds on the nearly 20% increase we have achieved over the past two years.
SOE: What are some of your goals for the division as we are coming into a post-pandemic world?
PD: A lot of our focus during the pandemic was on sustaining the arts community through the pandemic and we were able to provide an additional $3 million in financial support to arts and culture organizations, and this was on top of the existing funding we were providing. We needed to make sure there was an arts community on the other side of the crisis. We are still in that sustainability mode and working to find additional funds to support the cultural sector, above and beyond our annual grants budget.
SOE:You are from St. Louis, MO and have a background in piano and jazz.Tell us more about that.
PD: I was fortunate to have parents who pushed me (and in some cases forced me!) to participate in the arts. I was always in choir, theatre, speech, jazz band, and piano lessons and luckily, I found all of those things in my hometown, Mason City, IA. When it came time to choose a college to attend, I wanted to study jazz piano and my parents never questioned. I suppose I am also lucky in that way, too. So, I attended Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and completed a Bachelors in Music Theory/Composition, a Bachelors in Jazz Piano Performance, and a Masters in Jazz Piano Performance. Up until moving here, I was still playing two to three nights a week in St. Louis. I had a Friday and Saturday gig each week at a little pub where I played jazz standards with a bass player. I’ve traveled the world teaching and playing jazz through the State Department and have been to places like Guyana, Afghanistan, and Thailand. I really do miss playing publicly. So far, the only concerts I’ve done here have been in my apartment for my plants, ha!
SOE: Beyond music and culture, what do you like to do in your free time?
PD: Well, I have become an avid tennis player since I moved here, which has been a great way to meet folks outside of the arts. I am a member of the South Florida Tennis Club (SFTC), which was created to support and develop tennis activities for the LGBT community and friends in South Florida. It is a great organization for anyone looking to get into tennis. You don’t have to be a member of the LGBT community to join – and, as in my case, you don’t even have to be good at tennis! I also love exploring new restaurants and can make a mean Gin cocktail.
SOE: What are some unique aspects of the Broward arts scene?
PD: People often ask me how Broward’s arts scene compares to other parts of the Country. There are a lot of great arts organizations and artists here, but for the size of this area, the arts community is small in comparison. Historically, the southeastern United States has had fewer public charities than comparative parts of the country. That being said, what we have here is rich and extremely diverse. On top of that, South Florida as a region is very rich in arts and culture. There is something here for everyone whether you are into contemporary art, theatre, music, dance. It is all here.
There are a lot of great things to look forward to. In the fall, we will be launching a large-scale marketing campaign as we “reopen” arts and culture in Broward County. Our Annual Cultural Forum takes place in October and is our de facto “state of the arts address” so anyone interested in learning about our arts community and the exciting things happening, should attend that. We are also continuing our outdoor digital art exhibition in January 2022, which we launched during the pandemic as “Light the Night”. It will have a different name this time and will feature exciting large-scale digital and light-based art installations. And of course, we have our workshops throughout the year, which will focus on things like grant writing and understanding NFTs and their impact on artists. In the spring, we will be unveiling a new light-based art installation on the Andrews Avenue Bridge and of course all of our fabulous grantee artists and organizations and their events.
SOE: What is one thing you’d like to leave our readers with?
PD: The arts are an important part of what makes Broward a great place to live. If you like the arts and want to see the sector grow, you have to let your elected officials know it is important. Whether it is your city commissioner or your county commissioner, engage with them about the arts. If you are an artist or work for an arts organization, invite your elected officials to events and reach out to them regularly to let them know what is going on. Your advocacy helps make the Division’s efforts possible, but we all have to be involved. Together, we can achieve great things.
You can find out what is going on with us on social media @BrowardArts (twitter, insta, facebook, youtube) and what’s going on in our community at ArtsCalendar.com, so don’t forget to use us as your resource for arts in South Florida.