Living Their Passion 

Each day you find virtuous philanthropists advocating for their causes and inviting others to join them in the experience. There is enthusiasm and determination in their attitude and aptitude to find creative ways to inspire others to follow their lead. They are nurturing to others and disciplined in carrying out the mission of their philanthropic biography. Their positive energy is like a magnet, attracting others to give gratitude for blessings received and the quality of life they work to sustain. They bring vision and virtue to each decision, which is reflected in their actions for a more compassionate world.

When Florida Cultural Alliance president Sherron Long talks about philanthropy, she means living her entire life working for and supporting her passion for the transformative power of the arts and art education experiences on individual lives, communities, and schools. 

Her goal in high school was to study marine biology because she loved the ocean and wanted to sail the seas with Jaques Cousteau. But in 1967, she went on a humanities trip to New York City with her Duval County, Fla. senior class where they saw the musical Man of La Mancha. She remembers how moving the production was and watching her classmates at the end of the performance crying and be deeply touched by what they experienced in the theater.  She thought to herself, if something can move people that much, in that short period of time, that’s what I want to major in.

Long went on to get an undergraduate degree in theater, went back to get her MFA in theater directing, and taught in high school and college. Eventually she went to work for the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs, where she got involved with the political process and learned how important government partnerships were to sustain cultural organizaitons and artists.

She realized how critical advocacy was to the arts and worked to ensure that not only did the arts have a voice in state government, but that government understands its role to help sustain policies and funding for the continued development of diverse and quality arts, arts education, and cultural resources throughout the state. By creating stronger partnerships with both the public and private sectors to sustain and advance cultural resources, greater access to the arts and cultural experiences are possible not only for the children, but for everyone. Says Long: 

Those of us who work in the not-for-profit world certainly understand the importance and appreciate the philanthropic monetary gifts of others to help sustain the vital work our organizations do. Many of us would like to be in stronger financial positions to also turn around and make major monetary contributions to organizations and causes we believe are critical; however, many of us earn modest amounts and can only make modest monetary contributions to the causes we believe in. I can, however, give enthusiastically of my knowledge and time and devote my entire professional life in ways I know are going to help support a creative industry that enriches people’s lives and connects them in meaningful ways through arts and cultural experiences. It is my way of giving back to the community.

For more, read “Women, Wealth & Giving: The Virtous Legacy of the Boom Generation” by Margaret May Damen and Niki Nicastro McCuistion.