Empowering Arts Grants

With its world-class arts organizations, performances, and collections, Sarasota County has earned a reputation as Florida's "Cultural Coast." Our region is a place where inspiration and artistic expression meet -- drawing new visitors and residents every year. Because the arts so meaningfully impact our quality of life and our regional economy, Gulf Coast Community Foundation is always looking for more meaningful ways to invest in this critical sector.

How It Started

Gulf Coast has invested grants in the arts since the foundation's inception. Over the years, several exceptional arts organizations have consistently earned support from Gulf Coast and our donors because of the vital and dynamic roles they play in our cultural community.

In 2014, Gulf Coast's Board of Directors adopted a new, more flexible approach to funding these groups in pursuit of their artistic missions. Gulf Coast's "Arts Appreciation Grants" offered unrestricted funding to cornerstone arts organizations to use as they best saw fit.

For the Future, Today 

After ten years, Gulf Coast saw fit to conduct a review of its former Arts Appreciation Grants, which are now rebranded as the Empowering Arts Grant Program aimed to not just appreciate, but to empower the community’s world-class arts and cultural organizations to meet their full potential.

For fiscal year 2025, our Empowering Arts Grant recipients, totaling up to $785,000 are:


Asolo Repertory Theatre
Their Mission: To engage and inspire audiences with extraordinary theatrical experiences created with vision, passion and artistry and enhanced by deeply integrated education and community engagement programs.

Made possible through the Robert Hassmer Charitable Fund

Circus Arts Conservatory
Their Mission: To engage and educate students using unique and innovative learning programs; to measurably improve the quality of life for individuals in care communities; and to advance the extraordinary legacy and heritage of the circus. The Circus Arts Conservatory’s extraordinary mission underscores its commitment to sharing the entertainment, education, and enrichment that Circus Arts provide.

Made possible through the Ina L. Donnan Field of Interest Fund

Embracing Our Differences
Their Mission: Through the transformative power of the arts, we educate and inspire to create a better world.

Made possible through the Charlotte Ellis Charitable Fund

Florida Studio Theatre
Their Mission: To make theatre affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. To present theatre that challenges with as much gusto as it entertains. To create a public forum for the issues of our day that will foster positive change in our community and beyond. To operate within and for the public trust.

Made possible through the Mildred and Garrett Eelman Charitable Fund

Hermitage Artist Retreat
Their Mission: The mission of the Hermitage is to inspire and foster the most influential and culturally consequential art and artists of our time.

Made possible through the Welles Murphey Fund

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Their Mission: To provide bayfront sanctuaries connecting people with air plants of the world, native nature, and our regional history.

Made possible through the A. Hamilton and Edith T. Gardner Fund

Sarasota Ballet
Their Mission: To enrich lives, captivate emotions and strengthen the community through the art of dance.

Made possible through the Katherine Naismith Witten Fund

Sarasota Opera
Their Mission: Sarasota Opera produces impassioned opera performances true to the vision of the composer, to entertain, enrich, educate, and inspire a life-long love of opera in our diverse and growing communities.

Made possible through the Zoe Anderson Charitable Fund

Sarasota Orchestra
Their Mission: The mission of Sarasota Orchestra is to engage, educate, and enrich our community through high-quality, live musical experiences.

Made possible through the Elizabeth Miller Charitable Fund

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
Their Mission: The Ringling serves as the legacy of John and Mable Ringling—a place of art, architecture, and circus in an environment that inspires, educates, and entertains.

Made possible through the Violetta Marchisio Charitable Fund

Venice Symphony
Their Mission: The Venice Symphony exists to inspire and transform lives through exceptional musical experiences.

Made possible through the John and Mary Doherty Charitable Fund

Venice Theatre
Their Mission: To celebrate and nurture creative expression, to foster human communication and understanding, and to delight and challenge our audiences through theatre and the performing arts of the highest quality.

Made possible through the Agnes Gnewikow Charitable Fund

West Coast Black Theatre Troupe
Their Mission: To produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists and builds self-esteem in youth of color.

Made possible through the Helen Hamilton Fund