Community Assets & Culture

Southeast Florida is one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic cultural centers in the nation. The region is earning an international reputation that gives its cities a competitive edge in attracting businesses and tourism and enhancing and energizing the lives of residents. A scan of events listings within the region underscores a cultural vibrancy that is driven by, celebrates, and strengthens the region’s international gateway role in the global marketplace.

“In my own philanthropy and business endeavors, I have seen the critical role that the arts play in stimulating creativity and in developing vital communities. As this study indicates, the arts have a crucial impact on our economy and are an important catalyst for learning, discovery, and achievement in our country.”

– Paul G. Allen, Philanthropist and Co-Founder, Microsoft, from the re- port Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, prepared by Americans for the Arts.

A few notable facts:

The arts are a major economic contributor. Based on results from a recent economic study, Southeast Florida’s nonprofit arts industry, over the seven county region, has a $1.65 billion annual impact and provides more than 47,000 full-time jobs. Data for Indian River County showed that the cultural arts provided local creative jobs at about twice the national average (in proportional terms, greater than Chicago and on par with New York). The economic studies do not include the intangible benefits that a vibrant cultural arts environment brings to the livability and identity of the region and the diverse communities within it.

Each of the region’s counties has invested significant public and private resources in the arts, resulting in 25 years of unparalleled growth. In Miami-Dade County alone, over the last 30 years the number of non-profit arts organizations increased from 100 to 1,000, a phenomenal rate of growth for any business sector. Although the region’s cultural arts community is relatively young, it has a growing reputation for reinventing art forms, generating exciting new work, and developing innovative models to connect with 21st century audiences.

Important parts of the region’s cultural traditions and history come from the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, both federally recognized Native American tribes. Their story is woven into a variety of artistic expressions, including the visual arts, dance, dolls, basketry, beadwork, wood- work, patchwork, clothing, and storytelling. It also celebrated at festivals and other signature events. For the Miccosukee, that includes a Music Festival, Arts Festival, and American Indian Day event. Seminole Tribe events include an annual American Indian Arts Celebration, a Second War Reenactment, and a Big Cypress Celebration that includes native dancing, food and music.

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Seminole Tribe of Florida

The Seminole were highly affected by the rapidly changing American environment. Natural disasters magnified changes from the governmental drainage project of the Everglades. In the 1930s, the Seminole slowly began to move onto federally designated reservation lands. Initially, few Seminoles had any interest in moving to the reservation land or in establishing more formal relations with the government. Some feared that if they moved onto reservations, they would be forced to move to Oklahoma. Others accepted the move in hopes of stability, jobs promised by the Indian New Deal, or as new converts to Christianity. Beginning in the 194Os, however, more Seminoles began to move to the reservations. Reservation Seminoles began forming tribal governments and forming ties with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1957 the nation reorganized and established formal relations with the US government as the Seminole Tribe of Florida, headquartered in Hollywood.

Miccosukee Tribe of Florida

A traditional group, known as the Trail Indians, moved camps closer to the Tamiami Trail to sell crafts to travelers. They felt disfranchised by the Seminole move to reservations, who they felt were adapting European-American ways. Their differences were exacerbated in 1950 when reservation Seminoles filed a land claim suit against the federal government for seizure of lands in the 19th century, an action not supported by the Trail Indians. Following federal recognition of the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 1957, the Trail Indians decided to organize a separate government. They sought recognition as the Miccosukee Tribe, as they spoke the Mikasuki language. They received federal recognition in 1962, and received their own reservation lands, setting up a acre reservation on the northern border of Everglades National Park.

Where can I learn more about the Native American culture in Southeast Florida? At the annual Seminole Tribal Fair, The Seminole Tribe of Florida welcomes American Indian dancers, performers and artisans from more than 300 tribes across the Americas to the largest native event in South Florida. The festival, held second weekend in February, includes a powwow competition, Seminole cultural displays, crafts, artists and vendors, archery, log peeling, and many more events.

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Two big trends are driving the remarkable growth rate of the region’s art industries:

  • The waves of immigration that enrich and energize the region with artists, arts supporters, and families who are committed to their cultural heritages. They contribute a di- verse and dynamic array of cultural expressions and traditions, energy and ambition, and new arts patrons. 
  • The evolution of the region from a seasonal tourist destination to one that is a global center for commerce, tour- ism, and trade. That evolution is being led by civic leaders who recognize the importance of a strong cultural arts life as part of the essential infrastructure required to be competitive in the global marketplace. 

“The business case for arts and culture touches people, places, and prosperity. Every metropolitan region is in the race for talent, competitiveness, and success in an economy that is dramatically different from that of the past. In light of the needs for the ‘next economy,’ a solid business case emerges for arts and culture playing a central role in economic development and community life.”

– Vibrant Culture – Thriving Economy, Arts, Culture, and Prosperity In Arizona’s Valley of the Sun, prepared for the Maricopa Regional Arts and Culture Task Force

In addition to attracting and retaining businesses and luring visitors to the region, the cultural arts are also serving as:

  • A backbone strategy in place making, including revitalizing and reenergizing once neglected neighborhoods. The arts are playing a significant role in transforming them from places to avoid into places to visit, live, and invest. For example, the dramatic resurgence of South Beach caught the region’s (and country’s) interest for the role that the arts and historic architecture played in creating one of the world’s hottest destinations. The importance of the cultural arts in creating a sense of place and civic pride was underscored by the Soul of the Community project launched in 2OO8 by Gallup and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The three- year, 26-community study involving over 43,000 interviews found that three main qualities attach people to a place: social offerings, such as entertainment venues and places to meet, openness, and aesthetics of place. For more information see: 
  • A proven way to improve student performance and better prepare them for the workforce. Research demonstrates that students who are involved in the arts are less likely to drop out of school and, in fact, score higher on their standardized tests ( The region’s cultural arts organizations emphasize the role of arts in education, including in-school and out-of-school programs that introduce students to the arts and help them learn in different ways. Economic development planners are starting to replace STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) with STEAM (adds the arts) so that students will also have the best education in the critical thinking and communication skills they will need to be competitive An- other advantage of adding the “A” is for students to develop an appreciation of different cultures and traditions, also important in today’s global knowledge-based economy. 

South Florida Cultural Consortium 

Created 25 years ago, the South Florida Cultural Consortium is an alliance of the local arts agencies of Bro- ward, Martin, Monroe, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties that work collaboratively to develop cultural excellence and accessibility. Members pool resources for joint projects such as a regional artist fellowship program and a shared commitment to expanding the impact of arts education.

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A way to draw people together in shared events that celebrate the region’s diverse culture and strong arts community and provide opportunities for civic connections and conversations that build communities and social capital. Working geographically up the region, examples include Fantasy Fest in Key West, Art Basil and the Miami Book Fair, Fort Lauderdale’s Winterfest Boat Parade, Sunfest in West Palm Beach, Martin County’s Arts Fest, Friday Fest in downtown Fort Pierce, and Under the Oaks in Indian River County.

“In sum, cultural endeavors offer social capital effects both direct and indirect, immediate and long lasting. The arts provide a powerful way to transcend the cultural and demographic boundaries that divide us and to find deeper spiritual connections with those like us. To use our phrasing, the arts create both ‘bridging’ and ‘bonding’ social capital.”

-The Arts and Social Capital chapter of the Saguaro Seminar report, BetterTogether, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. 2001. Information on the arts and social capital can be viewed at saguaro-seminar-meetings/the-arts-and-social-capital.

Click to expandIn short, residents and visitors in Southeast Florida can choose from thousands of cultural arts events that showcase the region’s exceptional depth of creative talent in traditional and new forms of expression. The challenge is to cultivate and grow the role of cultural arts and the cache they provide – a proven strategy for creating and rekindling the economically successful, dynamic, and enduring places that will continue to draw investments and people to the region.

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