The Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts organization is a little richer thanks to a monetary gift from Florida's official source for travel planning to visitors across the globe.
VISIT FLORIDA, whose mission is to promote travel and drive visitation to and within Florida, has awarded an advertising matching grant to The Beach Friends of the Arts for fiscal year 2012-2013, which began July 1, 2012. The amount of the grant is $2,500.
"The purpose of these grants is to help non-profit entities and local governments stretch their tourism marketing dollars in an effort to expand cultural, heritage, rural and nature tourism activities in Florida," said Chris Thompson, President & CEO for VISIT FLORIDA.
Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts President Al Durrett stands beside his organization’s logo after receiving an advertising matching grant from VISIT FLORIDA.
The Beach Friends of the Arts applied for the grant in February 2011.
"We were pleased that VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida selected us from among a large number of grant applicants, during their most competitive grant cycle to date," said Al Durrett, president of the Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts. "These funds will be used for the Fort Myers Beach Film Festival and will help us better position and market Fort Myers Beach as a desirable destination.
"I think we are on the right track for image building on Fort Myers Beach. The more arts we can get in our town, the better it is to be looked at in the form of an artsy town."
Board member Georgia Reinmuth, who handles the publicity and organizational paperwork, found out about the grant's possibility.
"We had to show them what we were doing as far as arts events," she said. "I wrote a rough draft about the Fort Myers Beach Film Festival. We will have to pay for the advertising, show them that it is paid for, and then they reimburse us."
Reinmuth said the advertising matching grant would be used for the 2013 Fort Myers Beach Film Festival. The organization is also expecting to receive some funds from the Lee County Tourism Development Council, but that is not finalized yet.
"Most likely, we will be using it for television advertising on Comcast in the Tampa, Orlando and Miami areas," she said. "It's to show off Fort Myers Beach as a destination."
"I think that showed them we meant business about bringing some of the arts back to Fort Myers Beach in a bigger and better way," added Durrett. "We're just trying to give people another good reason to come visit the Beach."
Durrett credits Reinmuth (treasurer) and other board members Mark List (director), Carla Mandel (vice president), Corky Condon (director), Bob Layfield (secretary) and Beth Ann Tuyls (2nd vice president).
"Carla and I began this organization by sitting down and figuring out the strategy," said Durrett.
"This grant proves the arts do help the economy. The arts are a vital part of encouraging people to come to the area," said Mandel. "The Beach has a reputation as a fun place. The arts broaden that appeal and help make it a place for everyone with theatrical performances and musical groups.
"We're trying to extend the season into the summer when we have more and more European visitors, who are used to looking for cultural events in their overseas towns and want the same when they are vacation. That's what people expect."
VISIT FLORIDA, a private/public partnership, is Enterprise Florida's day-to-day operating corporation for tourism.
The mission of the Fort Myers Beach Friends of the Arts is facilitating and funding arts presentations in the Fort Myers Beach area, predominately during the off season to enhance economic conditions and the quality of life. The organization officially began in November 2011, when officials filed for 501c3 nonprofit status.
"We started this organization off not knowing what direction we were going to go in. I think we knew what we wanted to achieve, but we didn't know how to go about doing it. I don't think we've done too bad so far," said Durrett. "I've had a lot of fun with Paint the Beach the past two years and a lot of fun watching the film festival come back to Fort Myers Beach."
Besides the Paint the Beach and FMB Film Festival events, the Beach Friends of the Arts group is looking to bring more concerts to Estero Island. They are currently planning a December concert featuring Paul Todd somewhere on the island.
-- Georgia Reinmuth contributed to this report