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Business Observer Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 4 days ago

Prominent figure in the arts announces retirement

Jim Shirley says he's looking forward to seeing the new ideas that come from the new leadership at the Arts and Cultural Alliance.

Jim Shirley, executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance, has announced his retirement. 

Shirley took the helm as executive director of the organization, formerly known as the Arts Council, in 2009. According to a story in the Sarasota Observer, sister paper of the Business Observer, he announced on Tuesday, Aug. 2, that he will retire at the end of 2022.

The Arts Council was founded in 1986 as an umbrella organization for all Sarasota arts and culture institutions, and its name was later changed to reflect its impact on the entire region.

“It has been a privilege to work with all of the people involved in our amazing arts and cultural community and to represent the arts with our business and political leadership,” says Shirley on Tuesday in an official statement. “We are fortunate to live in a region that offers such a rich and diverse cultural environment.”

The alliance promotes itself as an advocate for arts organizations in the region and administers the Tourist Development Tax Arts Grant for Sarasota County in addition to other granting programs supporting the arts. This has led to $45 million in funding for local arts organizations, which Shirley says was a result of a staff coordinating and working for the greater good.

“While I serve as the public face of the organization, our real strength lies in our incredibly talented and hard working staff, dedicated volunteers and thoroughly committed Board of Directors,” Shirley says. “Our team, like our community, believes that the arts are an essential element of a happy and productive life.

"Sarasota County’s nonprofit arts and cultural organizations employ more than 7400 people and produce an economic impact of over $300 million per year. We have truly earned the designation of ‘Florida’s Cultural Coast.’”

Shirley adds that he’s healthy and hopes to see the Arts and Cultural Alliance thrive under new leadership “with fresh ideas and creative vigor.”

And in turn, the organization thanked him for being an indispensable member of their team.

“The Arts Alliance would not be where it is today if it were not for Jim’s hard work and dedication over the years,” Kelly Lavin, the president of the alliance board, says. “We are very grateful for the many things he has accomplished during his tenure. We will continue to move forward during this pivotal time and shortly will begin the process of engaging new leadership.”

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