By Christie Galeano-DeMott
Photography By Eduardo Schneider
Advancing the arts and improving Broward County’s visual landscape are part of his job description, but Earl Bosworth’s devoted narrative has turned his government position into a crusade for the arts.
Bosworth, a T-shirt-loving bass player and published songwriter, is the director of the Broward Cultural Division. As head of the county’s local arts agency, he’s in charge of managing a nearly $7 million operating budget and enhancing the county’s cultural environment by advancing the arts. But how?
Known to locals, art aficionados and government officials as “Bos,” Bosworth oversees several necessary tasks, such as ensuring artists and art institutes receive vital grants, the public has thought-provoking art to enjoy, local artists and art educators are acknowledged and supported, and the community is informed of the stellar art programming taking place around the county.
After a national search for the Broward Cultural Division’s next director, Bosworth was selected to fill the position in 2013. He had no formal visual arts education, but thanks to his nearly 10 years of arts administration experience, he knew what his two main objectives needed to be: to re-energize the public arts program and create a mechanism for capital funding for the arts. Four years later, he feels he has accomplished both.
“Whether I’m at a nonprofit or government agency, I want to run it like a business,” says the 51-year-old New Jersey native, who holds a business degree from Florida State University and a master’s degree in business administration from Nova Southeastern University.
During the 2007 financial downturn, the Broward Cultural Division suffered. The crisis led to less funding, which led to fewer performances, art installations and exhibits around the county along with less direct and indirect spending by arts groups and their patrons. Bosworth’s drive to revive the arts and expose Broward residents and visitors to high-quality art compelled him to create a tourism development tax program that now provides the division with $1 million in appropriations for the capital construction or renovation of cultural institutions. It also helped fund the Pompano Beach Cultural Center and Pembroke Pines City Center, which both opened this year.
Likewise, the county allocates up to 2 percent of capital construction projects in Broward for public art—so as the county’s skyline develops, its arts programs grow. More funding means Bosworth can commission even more art by local and national artists and bring that art to public spaces, enticing residents to feel differently, to be inspired or to just stop and smile.
Bosworth works with community partners, including the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades, to strategically place art around the county. He says the Broward Cultural Division’s mission is to provide these clients, as he refers to them, with world-class art. Today, the county’s public art collection contains more than 260 works installed in 90 venues. Since Bosworth stepped into his role, 27 public art projects have been completed. The airport is one of the Broward County Public Art & Design Program’s pioneers, housing more than 20 percent of the county’s entire collection, including one of Bosworth’s favorite pieces: David Lee Brown’s Fort Lauderdale Airport Sculpture.
“It is easy for Earl to get lost in his work,” says Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief, a fellow art advocate and collector. “I call him ‘the enabler’ because anything that has to do with art, Earl will make it happen.”
Before his current role, Bosworth worked as the Broward Cultural Division’s assistant director for nearly seven years. He then transitioned to president of ArtServe for three years before returning to the Broward Cultural Division as its director.
“People think I’m crazy because I’ve always liked government work,” he says with a smile. “It can be challenging, but I still feel like I can be efficient. Plus, I love the nature of the work.”
As he looks to the future, Bosworth welcomes the creation and cultivation of new ideas and programs that ensure the Broward arts community continues to flourish.
“It’s a different landscape and a different time now, so we’re always thinking about what’s next and what that looks like,” he says.
While the Broward Cultural Division’s $6.9 million operating budget is petite compared to the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs’ more than $30 million budget, Bosworth says he’s working to get Broward to the point where it will be able to compete at a higher level with its neighbor to the south. One way to continue to expand the arts is by taking a unique approach to the usual arts patronage philosophy. Awarding grants is undeniably necessary, but the Broward Cultural Division wants local artists to become self-sustaining within their industry. Through the division’s Artist as an Entrepreneur Institute, artists learn how to advance their art and create a successful business. Though the program has been around for 10 years, Bosworth is looking to create a graduate program as a way to continue to develop the business skills of the institute’s 700 past participants.
And when the community invests in artists and their success, they invest back into the community. Results of that activity are reflected in the recent Arts & Economic Prosperity study released in June by Americans for the Arts. Based on data from the 2015 fiscal year, the study concluded the nonprofit arts and culture sector in Broward County is a $414.2 million industry and one that supports 11,078 full-time jobs.
Happy to be part of the larger conversation about where Fort Lauderdale’s economic and cultural future lies, Bosworth just wants one thing: “I want the Broward Cultural Division to continue to paint the picture and tell the story of the arts in Broward,” he says. “I want to continue to build the arts scene.”
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Issue.