Scroll To Top

Ron DeSantis vetoes millions in arts funding to shut down Florida's fringe festivals

Ron DeSantis
Andrew Cline/Shutterstock

The anti-LGBTQ+ governor blamed "sexual" fringe festivals across the state for making it impossible to allow any grants to reach organizations. Advocates have cried foul.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis alarmed cultural institutions when he vetoed $32 million in arts funding. Now he’s blaming “sexual” fringe festivals as the reason he gutted arts in the Sunshine State.

At a press conference last week, the anti-LGBTQ+ governor blamed fringe festivals across the state for making it impossible to allow any grants to reach organizations.

“You have your tax dollars being given in grants to things like the Fringe Festival, which is like a sexual festival where they are doing all this stuff,” DeSantis told reporters and supporters. “How many of you think your tax dollars should go to fund that? Not very many people would do that.”

Except arts organizations from all corners of the state have cried foul. Carlos Guillermo Smith, whojust won election as Florida’s second-ever out state Senator, said DeSantis clearly felt pushback from arts groups and was scapegoating fringe festivals to escape the heat.

“The Governor has gone to great lengths to show his disdain for LGBTQ Floridians, that much is obvious. But it appears he may also be scapegoating Fringe after receiving huge bipartisan blowback for his job-killing veto of arts and culture funds,” Smith said.

“He's abusing his veto power to censor and control the arts. This doesn't happen in ‘free’ states. There's now an immediate urgency for donors and supporters of the arts to give what they can to try and make these grantees whole again. Many organizations are already cutting programming and staff to make ends meet after these devastating cuts. Arts funding is not a partisan issue. But many high-dollar arts donors are Republicans who need to communicate their anger over these budget vetoes to the Governor’s office and GOP leadership. We need their help now more than ever.”

Fringe festivals have often provided a rare platform for art celebrating queer culture. TheFringe Fort Myers festival in conservative Southwest Florida, for example, featured a TransMasculine Cabaret and a show called “Cock Talk,” a male version of the “Vagina Monologues” at this year’s event. That event is put on by the Alliance for the Arts, where executive Molly Rowan-Deckert said the entire organization will suffer a $61,000 loss even though no state dollars were to go toward the event.

She considered DeSantis’ action as a veto on the entire concept of social progress through artistic impression. “He’s talking about wanting to expel woke ideology from the state of Florida, and I think he’s conflating the arts with woke ideology,” she said.

Orlando Fringe, the fringe festival expected to receive the most state funding this year at just over $70,000, released a statement lambasting DeSantis’ remarks. Orlando Fringe this month is headlined by a production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The organization planned to host Orlando Out Fest last month but weather flooded the venue.

“In referring to the fringe as a ‘sexual’ festival, he incorrectly characterized our festival and misrepresented our contributions to the arts community, locally, nationally, and internationally,” the statement reads.

“As the longest-running Fringe Festival in the United States, Orlando Fringe’s mission is to foster a vibrant community of artists, providing low barriers of entry to produce and enjoy art across diverse genres including theatre, dance, music, puppetry, circus, as well as children’s programming and visual arts. Orlando Fringe is proud to be a part of a network of over 200 Fringes across the world, contributing to a global movement of artistic expression and cultural exchange.”

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Jacob Ogles