Believe it or not, there's an old English proverb that says, "The longest mile is the last mile home." And while you wouldn't normally associate English proverbs with arts funding in north-central Florida, stranger things have happened.
In fact, we'd venture to argue that the experience of planners of an art park in Ocala, Florida will resonate with arts professional everywhere. So let us set it up for you.
Planners of the Ocala Art Park set out to build an artistic oasis nestled in the heart of their city of over 50,000 residents. Phase 1, which included engineering, infrastructure, hardscape and landscaping, and the construction of a stone archway, benches, and pathways, was almost complete. In fact, according to planners, Phase 1 constituted a majority of the project itself, so semantically speaking, the park itself was practically complete.
Then they ran out of money.
In other words, a tremendously pressing financial challenge presented itself on that fateful last mile with the finish line in sight (or goal line, depending on your preference for athletic metaphors). Fortunately, this story has a happy ending in the form of the Rick and Nancy Moskovitz Foundation — not to be confused with the Dustin Moskovitz of Facebook philanthropy fame — which stepped in and injected a project-saving $216,500 to see it through.
Now we admit, the model you see in place here — start building something and if you run out of money, hope for a bail-out — isn't an optimal one. But of course, this isn't an optimal world. Organizations may face cost overruns, unforeseen expenses, and ever-changing financial circumstances in their respective cities. As a result, many organizations face "last mile" funding challenges.
Art park planners carried they day because they did a great job of creating something so cool and important that the Moskovitz Foundation decided to pony up the remaining funds. After all, the Art Park is a key pillar of the city's downtown revitalization plans. And the park itself sounds very intriguing. It includes open spaces among the landscaping to allow artists to set up easels on a level surface and paint their surroundings.
Furthermore, the foundation's donation was more than a one-time gift. It's designed as a matching grant to compel the community to get involved and see the project to fruition. It's akin to telling Ocala residents, "We'll do some of the heavy lifting, but this a community resource and everyone should participate."
Their exhortation isn't falling on deaf ears. Members of the community are already signing on as partners to provide expertise, labor, and fundraising help. For example, students from Marion Technical Institute and Cub Scout Pack 112 have volunteered to participate, as have members of the Marion County Audubon Society and Pioneer Garden Club.
Ultimately, the total budget for all phases of the project is almost $314,000. The Moskovitz gift is almost 70% of that amount. Call us optimists, but the math is encouraging.