TSKW Came Calling

Over the past few months, something truly heroic has happened….

The Studios of Key West, faced with serious cuts to its primary funding, has forged relationships with almost 100 local businesses, from shops to hotels to our favorite neighborhood restaurants, all of whom are now 2009/2010 season sponsors. In many ways, added to our 400+ existing Friends and Patrons, they have helped us guarantee the stellar new year ahead.

In June, I sent out several hundred letters, each accompanied by our 2008/2009 season catalog, thanking the island’s business community for recognizing the importance of the arts and culture in key West. I told our story, plain and simply, and expressed our organization’s gratitude for how far we’ve come in so short a span. And then, as the hot and humid summer days rolled by, board member and fundraising chair Jay Scott hit the street. Mary Grusin, our development officer, joined in. They visited hair salons, called on hotel managers, talked to local bankers, chatted with gallery owners. They found out what the community felt about TSKW, learned who hadn’t experienced our programs, who had explored the artistic process with us, and they discovered how important creativity and cultural expression are to Key West’s merchants and professionals. They raised friends while raising funds.

Faced with the loss of our major support from Rodel Foundation in 2010, who had guaranteed our primary operating support since 2006—our summertime post-season did not begin on an optimistic note. But Jay and the rest of the TSKW board, I and my staff, and the neighbors and partners who have come to value our place on the island all rallied together. A few major donors—Matthew Helmerich and Jeffrey Harwell, Sandra and Lee McMannis, and Sunshine Smith, to name a few—made generous new pledges towards our future. By the end of September, as we put the finishing touches on the most ambitious season ever, our organization counted over 500 supporters from Marathon to Mallory Square.

Another wonderful thing happened, thanks to our building’s landlord, Historic Florida Keys Foundation. Since April, our board has been working with their governing body to arrive at a reduced rent for the Historic Armory, an important step towards long-term survival. And after investing $250,000 in its renovation, and establishing a home for creative people and ideas, The Studios of Key West would like nothing more than to continue building our place in Old Town. Historic Florida keys Foundation’s leaders agreed, and its contribution of a lowered rent through June 2010 has helped make the coming TSKW season possible.

As our new Business Circle closes in on 100 members, and summer gives way to fall, The Studios of Key West breathes a sigh of relief. We now know that the 2009/2010 program is secure. We know that thousands of creative people, local families, and generous community leaders are helping make it happen. And we exhale with a smile of gratitude before another busy year begins—knowing that our role as champion of the island’s creative heart is assured. And thankful to be a part of its cultural soul.

The Studios of Key West