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For the first time in three years, Jim Shirley won unanimous approval of more than $1 mil- lion in arts grants for Sarasota groups without first having to respond to questions about his outreach to South County organizations. The executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County appeared briefly before the County Commission on July 9 to introduce Fran Tavalin, his office's grants direc- tor, before the Sarasota County Commission awarded $1,580,600 to 34 projects for the 2015 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. In 2012 and 2013, Commissioner Christine Robinson, who represents South County interests on the board, pressed Shirley about the number of meetings he had conducted to assist representatives of South County arts groups interested in the grants process. In 2012, she cast the solitary "No" vote on the annual awarding of funds, citing concerns of constituents who had found difficulty in nav- igating the application process. Last year, Robinson joined her colleagues in unanimous support of the grant awards after Tavalin pointed out that 8 percent of the funding would be divided among three South County entities and Shirley provided more details about his contacts with South County organizations. The Sarasota Concert Association presented Russia's historic St. Petersburg Philharmonic in a Sarasota performance in February. For the first time, the Concert Association has received a county grant to help cover the expenses of its programming. Contributed photo FOR THE ARTS 34 ORGANIZATIONS HAVE WON $1,580,600 IN ARTS AND CULTURAL GRANTS FOR THE NEXT FISCAL YEAR By Rachel Brown Hackney Editor

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