Never mind the storms; the 25 or so board members of Downtown Arts District Inc. managed to pull off their Sept. 18 retreat and make some decisions to clarify the nonprofit's mission and mode.

As reported in our Aug. 19 issue ("

As a result of the meeting, D.A.D. reframed its mission: "To grow the arts in the heart of Orlando." Still, that statement is more feel-good than informational, especially considering Ercole's explanation that, for now, D.A.D. will confine its efforts to looking into real estate and facilities management for art galleries or theater performances. D.A.D. is about downtown property – either buying it or executing long-term leases with developers willing to dedicate space in their buildings. There's no infrastructure for promotion or marketing of arts events at large, except for D.A.D.-sponsored events, including the Orlando International Fringe Festival and an adult-oriented Valentine's Day street party being organized by William Waldren of the Downtown Orlando Merchants Association.

Ercole says the goal is for D.A.D. to formulate a sound business plan, so that it can contribute several new performance spaces in downtown Orlando to the 2005 Fringe. To that end, D.A.D. should receive $150,000 from the city (the contract is still in the approval process) with the bonus of two-for-one matching. That isn't much when you're talking about buying prime downtown real estate, so intensive fund-raising efforts are also needed. Among the responsibilities outlined for the board at the retreat, D.A.D. lists financial support – "$1,000 minimum per board member" – in addition to promoting and selling tickets for fund-raisers.

D.A.D.'s first fund-raiser is a $75 per person gala scheduled for Oct. 9 at D.MAC. The event requires an invitation, which can be requested from Ercole (). This should prove to be a testing ground for downtown developers' interest in supporting the arts.

At the retreat, D.A.D also adopted the same boundaries the city has established for the Downtown Arts District, dropping its own competing geography. Yet the signs still hang about downtown promoting D.A.D. are consistent with neither the city's nor D.A.D.'s definition. (They also list a nonexistent website, a fact of which Ercole was unaware until his conversation with us.)

Such mistakes can easily occur when there's no communication between the many different downtown Orlando organizations (including the Downtown Orlando Partnership, Downtown Development Board, Central Florida Performing Arts Alliance and Downtown Orlando Merchants Association). So another priority for Ercole is increased networking and collaboration among the groups. But for now, the D.A.D. battle cry is clearly, "Raise more money."