Do you enjoy all the wonderful activities St. Augustine has to offer? Dining, shopping, gallery hopping, pub-crawling, carriage rides or museums? And what about all the concerts, plays, shows, exhibits, nightlife and festivals that seem to never end? If you do, we need your help.
Did you know that even though St. Augustine has a population of roughly 14,000, it has more than 50 performing and visual arts nonprofit organizations that present delightful events all year round? That’s because this accessible and affordable arts, culture and heritage scene attracts people like you from across the region, the nation and even around the world.
Demand for events keeps growing, but our talented and expanding arts community has literally run out of performance space in this small town. St. Augustine does not have a dedicated indoor performance space with more than 250 seats, aside from schools, which are also outgrowing their facilities. A performing arts center can be a hub of artistic and educational activity, a centerpiece of an existing arts district, a catalyst for economic development and new investment, and a cultural legacy for many generations to come. It can attract high-value commerce and enjoyment to Downtown year round.
That’s why we need your help.
Who’s “we”? The EpiCentre Alliance: a nonprofit coalition formed to promote, build and sustain a visual and performing arts center in the St. Augustine area. Its founding members include: A Classic Theatre (ACT), EMMA Concert Series and Guild, First Coast Opera, Hispanic Culture Film Festival, St. Augustine’s Romanza, St. Augustine Chamber Singers, St. Augustine Community Chorus, St. Augustine Concert Band, St. Augustine Film Society, St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, St. Augustine Music Festival, St. Augustine Orchestra and several individual community leaders who support the arts.
The members have already contributed significant funds for incorporation and nonprofit administration. In addition, the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council recently authorized payment for two closely related and expensive professional studies. An independent consulting firm completed the first study in July 2019. It found that an arts center in St. Johns County would not only be viable, but it would have a significant economic impact on the county. The second study, to be commissioned this year, will identify and rank a number of specific site locations for consideration, as well as what range of facility costs may be feasible.
If we are going to build a performing arts center, we also need a formal business plan with operational and fundraising strategies to complement the results of those studies. This is where you come in.
First, look up St. Augustine EpiCentre for Arts & Culture. Follow us on social media and leave your thoughts and suggestions. The EpiCentre Alliance will use your input as it develops its professional business plan. The Alliance has engaged Vavarde Consulting for that purpose. Later this month, Vavarde will begin by researching our community—including many arts and culture organizations, who will put a performing arts center to good use, and the public, residents and visitors alike, who will enjoy and support our performing and arts center for decades to come.
The EpiCentre Alliance will need to raise $8,000 by March to pay for that professional business plan development. That’s the second thing you can do: donate. To spur that along, St. Augustine’s Romanza, one of the Alliance’s founders, has pledged to match funds up to $2,000 to help reach our goal. Any amount is greatly appreciated.
The Alliance doesn’t expect the county or the city to build and manage a performing arts center. It needs to be managed by a nonprofit, which is one of the reasons the EpiCentre Alliance was created. We are going to build something. We just don’t know quite how big, yet. That depends on you.
Syeles is president of the EpiCentre Alliance.