Gaylen Phillips joined the Division of Cultural Affairs in 1990. She took over the State Touring Program in 1991 and led the highly popular roster for the next 20-plus years. Along the way, she developed the Florida Artists and Presenters Network, which provided on the ground training tools for touring artists and the presenters who book them. This program served thousands of students in rural and underserved counties and over its lifetime has funded music, dance and theatre activities in all 67 counties. After helping to establish the Sister State relationship between Florida and Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture in 1995, she developed the first Department of State Sister Cities Grant Program in 2001. This partnership has brought distinguished Japanese artists to Florida for exhibitions, performances and workshops. In 2009, Phillips developed the Florida Recovery Grant in response to the federal government’s allocation of arts funding as a result of a downturn in the economy. When the state touring program ended in 2015, Gaylen developed another Arts in Education category to continue to provide support for Florida’s touring performing artists called Artist Performances on Tour.
Phillips beautifully described the Division’s importance and her own experience when she said, “I have met many wonderful arts and cultural people across this state. I have listened to their stories and seen their work. I have understood how the DCA makes a difference across all communities and how much more needs to be done. I can draw a line between the work we do in our office to the local arts activity and then celebrate its success through the evidence of impact numbers, support letters, fundraising, community awareness and local government support. The arts really do lift spirits, educate, inform, support health and well-being and contribute to the economy.”