DeSantis Slashes Arts Funding Over ‘Sexual’ Festival ‘You Can’t Say Gay, You Can’t Do Anything He Considers Woke’

 DeSantis Slashes Arts Funding Over ‘Sexual’ Festival ‘You Can’t Say Gay, You Can’t Do Anything He Considers Woke’

Wade Vandervort/AFP via Getty Images

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis cut millions of dollars in arts and culture funding from the state’s budget this week, targeting a beloved Tampa-based festival he believes is too “sexual,” according to The Guardian.

During a Thursday press conference, DeSantis refused to elaborate on his claim that “they’re doing all this stuff” at the 10-day “Tampa Fringe” festival, which promotes inclusivity.

Margaret Ledford, artistic director for City Theatre Miami — a group for middle school students that lost a $47,000 grant due to DeSantis’ decision — expressed concern over the more than $32 million in funding cuts. She warned the cuts would impact programming, and salaries, and necessitate increased reliance on donations.

“You can’t say gay, you can’t do anything he considers woke, and the word climate change has been taken out of state statutes,” Ledford said. “We’re also trying to figure out how we reach the students of the community if we can’t talk about things they need to talk about in schools. If we bring in a play with a gay character, we can do that because we’re theater, but whose job are we putting in jeopardy if a student then asks a question of a teacher?”

Creative Pinellas’ chief executive Margaret Murray criticized the “unprecedented, wide-ranging veto of grants to almost 700 groups and organizations,” calling it “incredibly disheartening.”

“According to a recent report by the Florida Cultural Alliance, every $1 spent on the arts generates $9 in economic activity,” Murray said. “Unfortunately, there is little recourse to reverse the state’s decision, but we do still have a voice. Please continue supporting the artists and arts organizations. Now is the time to buy that piece of artwork or purchase tickets to the play you recently heard about. Collectively, we can amplify our advocacy for the arts and make our voices heard.”

The cuts have sparked significant backlash from the arts community, who see the move as part of a broader agenda against what DeSantis considers “woke” culture. The reduction in funding threatens numerous arts programs and organizations across the state, impacting not only cultural expression but also the economic benefits they provide to local communities.

As the arts community rallies in response, the debate over the governor’s cuts highlights the ongoing tensions between cultural programming and political agendas in Florida. The arts sector now faces the challenge of adapting to reduced funding while continuing to advocate for the vital role that arts and culture play in the state’s social and economic fabric.

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