Panama City Takes Over the Visual Arts Center

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PANAMA CITY-- In recent weeks the Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida has been under fire. Local artists and former employees have been speaking out to city officials ever since it was discovered the VAC lost its tax exempt status.

After weeks of controversy, the city has decided it's time to take matters into their own hands.

As of Wednesday, the city is now in control of the Visual Arts Center.

NewsChannel 7 first found out the Visual Arts Center had lost their tax exempt status. That sparked outrage from many local artists in the community who brought their complaints to commissioners.

"Yeah it's been frustrating," said Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki. "I want to make sure the public understand that we are concerned, we're going to fix it."

"We figured it's the only thing that we can do because we're supporting it with tax payer money," said Mayor Brudnicki. "We need to take over running the Visual Arts Center."

Since the VAC operates out of a city-owned building, Panama City gives the museum an $89,000 grant every year to maintain the building and promote the arts in Downtown Panama City. When the VAC lost its tax exempt status, the city began auditing them.

"There's a lot to go through," said Mayor Brudnicki. "I mean, we got years worth of stuff and I'm not sure where Darlene is on it, but once she gets it all completed, then she'll make a presentation to the full commission."

Mayor Brudnicki says there's no board of directors at the VAC and therefore no oversight. That's why he decided the city needed to step in.

"Their bi-laws say there's supposed to be nine board members, there is no board, so there is no organization," said Mayor Brudnicki. "Well, the city can't continue to fund something if there's no organization."

Mayor Brudnicki says the city will be partnering with the Bay Arts Alliance in the meantime.

"They asked us if we would serve as a temporary custodian until things can get straightened out, just to make sure that people who are participating in the programming have access, and that there's just somebody to answer questions," said Jennifer Jones, Executive Director of the Bay Arts Alliance.

Jones says no one wants to see such an important part of the community shut down.

"It's an investment the city's made and the community's made, and it just needs to continue because it adds to quality of life, and quality of education in the community," said Jones.

Mayor Brudnicki says if local artists can come together and create a board and bring a reasonable proposal to the city, then the city will back off.

Brudnicki is hoping to have the situation resolved within the next 30 days.



 
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