Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Americans for the Arts logo

Americans for the Arts is pleased to present Representatives Anna Eskamani, Carlos Guillermo Smith, Jay Trumbull, and Jayer Williamson with the Public Leadership in the Arts Award for State Arts Leadership, in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The award recognizes state legislators who have consistently advocated for the advancement of pro-arts legislation, funding, and promotion in their region.

For three consecutive legislative sessions, these four bipartisan State Representatives have championed the Florida nonprofit arts and culture industry. In March 2022, at the end of Florida’s legislative session, their tenacity paid off. Reps. Eskamani, Smith, Trumbull, and Williamson worked collectively to secure $59,088,125 to fully fund 710 cultural programs and projects in Florida—an appropriation that was the highest dollar amount serving the most grantees in the history of the state of Florida.  

From the first day of the session, Reps. Eskamani, Smith, Trumbull, and Williamson did something no other Florida Legislature has done. All of Florida’s arts and culture funding comes from non-recurring revenue with no dedicated funds for these line items, so there is no guarantee of funding. This past session, for the first time, arts and culture funding was not debated across the aisle, but bandied between the House and Senate. Given the strong support for funding in the house, the resulted was a record amount of funding.   

Accepting the award in person for the group was Rep. Eskamani (Central Florida) who has been an outspoken champion for arts and culture funding since her first term in office. She has been consistent in showing up to speak and listen at arts advocacy events and proudly recounts her experience as a high school theater student as she gives personal testament to arts education’s impact in her young life. Her district, which covers a large portion of Orlando, is home to many creatives and cultural organizations, and Rep. Eskamani is well known at home and statewide as a champion for the arts.

Rep. Eskamani commented, “I am thrilled to be recognized for our bipartisan work in securing record arts and culture funding for our nonprofit community in Florida. The arts changed my life: I lost my mom to cancer in 2004 when I was just 13 years old, and it was my school’s theater program that kept me focused and on a path for success. I want to make sure that every Floridian has access to the arts and that our state continues to be a leader in generating not just transformational experiences, but economic opportunity too.”

Nolen V. Bivens, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, commented, “Representatives Eskamani, Smith, Trumbull, and Williamson understand the important role that the arts play in advancing equity, uniting communities, preserving culture, and boosting the economy. These dedicated leaders have worked tirelessly to support and promote the arts in Florida, and I applaud them for their commitment and the incredible results they have achieved.”

Tim Storey, NCSL Chief Executive Officer, said, “I was thrilled when I heard four bipartisan members of the Florida state legislature would be receiving the 2022 Public Leadership in the Arts Award for their collective work with the arts. These state legislators not only understand the economic and cultural importance of the arts but the fact that the arts can serve as a of point of collaboration and inspiration.”

Americans for the Arts is a national nonprofit organization that advances the arts and arts education advocacy in America. Based in Washington, D.C., it has a record of more than 60 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for everyone to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at www.AmericansForTheArts.org.

National Conference of State Legislatures is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths, and territories. It provides research, technical assistance, and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.


Two people pose and smile for a photo, together holding a small decorative red glass bowl.
Jay H. Dick, senior director of state and local government affairs, Americans for the Arts, presents the Public Leadership in the Arts Award for State Arts Leadership Award to Representative Anna Eskamani, photo courtesy of Jay Dick.