Orlando Democratic state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna Eskamani announced Wednesday that they’re organizing a town hall meeting on state funding for the arts later this month in Orlando.

Smith, who has a seat on the House Appropriations Committee, and Eskamani contended that Florida’s arts funding ranks near the bottom nationally after cuts last year, and they intend to push for more.

“For every $1 we invest in arts and culture, we see $5 to $11 in economic activity in return,” Smith stated in a news release issued Wednesday. “Last year, the Legislature cut the Division of Cultural Affairs grant program 90 percent even while the state budget grew. It’s more important now than ever before to come together as a community to discuss the impact of these actions on our local economy and prioritize a plan of action to reinstate funding during Florida’s 2019 legislative session.”

The pair said Florida now ranks 48th nationally in public funding for arts and cultural events.

Their town hall meeting is set for 3 to 5 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Orlando Repertory Theatre in Orlando. The event, the pair of lawmakers said in the release, will feature prominent voices from Central Florida’s arts and culture community, as well as other local elected officials and supporters of the arts. RSVPs are requested for members of the general public to attend, and tickets are available through Facebook.

“Art is a powerful platform that instills values and translates experiences across space and time. It can help bridge gaps across class and culture, teach public speaking skills to the shyest of people, and create an avenue for expression for those of any ability,” Eskamani stated in the release. “Art is also economically viable: The creation, management and distribution of art employs many, and attracts tourists. In fact, Florida’s Department of State declared Florida’s arts-and-cultural sector to be a $4.7 billion economic engine responsible for 132,366 full-time jobs. We need the arts, and the arts need us.”

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