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The Collier County Tourism Development Council unanimously voted to recommend an $824,000 Tourist Development Tax grant be put toward arts and culture events in the county.

The grant will fund the entire arts and culture program in the Collier County Tourism Division, with a major portion put toward the continuance of ¡Arte Viva!, a year-long initiative focused on showcasing Hispanic art and life.

The grant is funded from the hotel surtax, applied from rental fees paid by visitors for short-term accommodations. According to the national Creative Vitality Index, which compares the per capita concentration of creative activity, Collier County produces an estimated $1.7 billion of sales and income from various creative industries each year, and the creative sector has created almost 10,000 jobs, proving that arts and culture is a substantial economic driver for the county.

Since ¡Arte Viva! began in September 2022, 20 local organizations have become involved through 70 total events. One of the biggest ¡Arte Viva! events is the celebration of Frida Kahlo’s life and work, involving collaboration with multiple organizations.

Naples Art Institute was the first North American venue to host the Isabelle de Borchgrave and the World of Frida Kahlo, showcasing de Borchgrave’s work of paper dresses and environments as if the viewer is stepping into Kahlo’s home. Additionally, Opera Naples showed Frida, an opera celebrating Kahlo’s talents and legacy.

Besides Kahlo-themed events, Naples Botanical Garden showcased La Calavera Catrina to commemorate Día de los Muertos, and the Immokalee Sports Complex hosted a Christmas Around the World event.

John Melleky, the county’s arts and culture manager, said the feedback from the local community on ¡Arte Viva! was positive. “People have said, ‘This is the first time that I’ve seen my culture in Naples.’ The responses have been tremendous.”

In the 2022-23 funding cycle, the arts and culture department received $950,000 in grant funds, an almost $200,000 increase from the previous year. The increase went toward the beginning of ¡Arte Viva!, which used $459,000 of the grant. Almost 50% of the more than $800,000 2023-24 grant would focus on keeping the ¡Arte Viva! events alive.

“We increased the grant funding during this current cycle because we knew it was going to be an important initiative, and it was a way to kickstart ¡Arte Viva! and build this event that will happen each year,” Melleky said. “And it was the perfect time again to build that coalition of organizations and partnerships, and collaborations were found throughout it even as time went on.”

Besides funding for ¡Arte Viva!, other events that will be supported include $40,000 for the 2024 Everglades Seafood Festival and $15,000 for upcoming exhibitions at the Holocaust Museum in North Naples.

The Board of County Commissioners has the final approval of the Tourist Development Tax grant.

“This has been a tremendous amount of conversation, momentum. It’s something that we have been talking about for years, reaching this level of commitment to arts and culture,” said Collier County

Tourism Director Paul Beirnes. “It’s just a great testament of how great of a fiber it is within the tourism community.”

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