Marco Island's Arts Advisory Chairman Howard Blankman resigns

Chris Curle Special to the Eagle 
Howard Blankman, a show biz veteran before moving to Marco seven years ago, is overseeing the Arts Afire project. "It's my dream," he says.

Chris Curle Special to the Eagle Howard Blankman, a show biz veteran before moving to Marco seven years ago, is overseeing the Arts Afire project. "It's my dream," he says.

— The chairman of Marco Island’s Arts Advisory Committee, Howard Blankman, resigned from the committee on Tuesday, effective immediately. Blankman, who was appointed by Councilman Frank Recker, said he was leaving Marco to return to Long Island, New York later this month.

Only fellow committee member Craig Greusel, city clerk, Laura Litzan and administrative assistant, Sandy Schildhorn attended the meeting, which was adjourned shortly after Blankman made his announcement because there was not a quorum needed to vote on agenda items.

“The committee will be sad that they couldn’t say goodbye,” noted Litzen. Although the Arts Advisory Committee usually meets on the second Tuesday of each month, members voted to move up the July meeting by one week.

Blankman, was the driving force behind the city’s first Arts Afire event back in March. The nine-day program showcased many of the Island’s cultural offerings and honored several local artists who were nominated by citizens for Flame Awards.

“I’m tremendously grateful for all the help you gave me,” Blankman told the group. “I felt it better to leave after a home run.”

Blankman has been a vocal supporter of the importance of art in the community. However, he and the advisory committee have struggled over the last few months with what they perceive as a lack of direction from City Council regarding the group’s current and future role and its influence.

In an end-of-fiscal-year recap to council, the committee highlighted its accomplishments, including the development of Arts Afire and the creation of a cultural calendar listed on the city’s website, but also asked for guidance for its future endeavors.

In its letter to City Council, the committee wrote: “It is the city’s responsibility to lead this development (of the arts) as much as it is to develop roads and other infrastructure … We need you to define a true Arts Campaign and give us the ability to advise its progress.”

“Over the last month and a half we’ve been seeking direction from the city,” said Greusel. “Every month that goes by is a setback.”

Greusel added that plans for next year’s Arts Afire need to start promptly, but are on hold because a decision on whether to continue the event has not been made.

Litzen admits that supporters of the arts face an uphill battle among some vocal city residents who believe the island should only provide citizens with the most basic of necessities.

“I always feel like I should do something, not come to a meeting and just show up,” commented Blankman. “In the end it’s a matter of values.”

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