Red Chair Scare: United Arts swallows the Arts and Cultural Alliance, pretends everything is just fine

Though it's been rumored for some time, last night the news finally broke in the Orlando Sentinel last night that United Arts of Central Florida – under the relatively new leadership of Flora Maria Garcia – was "merging" with the struggling Arts and Cultural Alliance of Central Florida, the group (funded by United Arts) responsible for bringing the annual Red Chair Affair showcasing the new seasons of the region's diverse arts groups. Hooray? Well, that's what the spin machine would have you believe. The move is being presented as a logical streamlining and cost-saving effort, with Garcia uttering inevitable niceties about it in an emailed release. "The timing for this consolidation is good," she said. "It will facilitate a stronger marketing effort on behalf of the cultural community." But the timing is also mildly suspect. United Arts canceled this year's ArtsFest last summer because it needed an events manager. There have been rumblings of a funding scramble among numerous arts groups this year. And, perhaps most importantly, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is looming large on the horizon, at least the first phase of the behemoth arts hub (the one that offers nothing for most local arts groups). Yesterday, Mayor Buddy Dyer announced that next year's State of Downtown speech would be delivered from the new hall, so IT BETTER BE DONE. The Red Chair Affair, all told a pretty good deal for local arts groups small and large, will need a new home when the Bob Carr comes tumbling down and DPAC promises to be fairly pricey on the rental front. What will happen? United Arts says its reviewing the signature event's future (meaning it will be canceled), DPAC could pounce on the opportunity to launch its own "cultural season" event, and all of the smaller arts groups, as they are wont to be, will end up screwed in the consolidation contest. Below is the United Arts press release, which gets bonus points for mentioning both Tupperware and a beauty convention. ARTS!

Arts and Cultural Alliance Merges with United Arts of Central Florida


ORLANDO, Fla. ­­— Oct. 11, 2013 — United Arts of Central Florida announced today that the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Central Florida will become a new marketing division within United Arts.   The Alliance strives to increase awareness and participation in Central Florida arts and cultural events through collaborative marketing programs. It approached United Arts about a potential merger a year ago, and after a detailed analysis, a United Arts marketing task force identified Alliance programs that aligned well with United Arts’ mission and goals. The board of directors for both organizations approved the consolidation in late September.   “The timing for this consolidation is good,” said Flora Maria Garcia, United Arts’ president and CEO. “It will facilitate a stronger marketing effort on behalf of the cultural community, as well as a conservation of financial resources.”   Alliance programs that best matched the United Arts goals are, a comprehensive website with featured events and discounts for arts and cultural events throughout the seven-county area, and the Central Florida Community Database, a shared database project where member organizations are able to gain a better understanding of the behaviors of Central Florida arts patrons. Two full-time Alliance staff members will report to Garcia and manage these programs.   Two Alliance board members — Rebecca Rhodes and Howard Britt — will also join United Arts’ board.   Rhodes, senior manager of social media and internet marketing for Tupperware Brands’ U.S. and Canada markets, has provided strategic leadership in the areas of sales force development, creative services, digital communications and public relations. Previously, Rhodes worked for nearly 10 years in sales and marketing for Hilton Hotels Corporation, where she led hotels to double-digit sales growth. She has degrees in organizational communications and psychology from Rollins College, as well as an MBA from Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. Rhodes is also chairwoman of the Alliance board.   Britt is the founder, president and owner of Premiere Show Group, an event planning company in Winter Springs, Fla., that is recognized as the foremost producer of trade shows for professionals within the beauty industry. Its flagship event, the Premiere Orlando International Beauty Event, features more than 250,000 square feet of exhibit space and attracts more than 54,000 attendees to Central Florida. Britt is an active member of the advisory boards for the Orange County Convention Center and Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida.   “I am delighted to welcome both Howard and Rebecca to the board,” said Linda Landman Gonzalez, chairwoman of United Arts’ board. “They bring unique expertise and corporate representation to an already stellar group working on behalf of Central Florida’s cultural community.”   Rhodes says the Alliance team is ready for this next step in strengthening the cultural community.   “Our board is proud of what the Alliance achieved in the organization’s 10 years,” Rhodes said. “Consolidation makes sense for this community, and we look forward to seeing key Alliance programs grow under the leadership of United Arts.”   About United Arts of Central Florida   United Arts is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, governments and school districts, foundations, arts and cultural organizations and artists. Its mission is to unite, strengthen and enhance the Central Florida community through the arts and culture.   United Arts serves residents and visitors in Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties through more than 50 local arts, sciences and history organizations. It raises and distributes funds for these cultural groups and provides management, administrative and advisory services.   Celebrating its 25th year, United Arts has invested more than $126 million in local organizations and education since its founding in 1989.

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