Buzz Worthy

Buzz Worthy: Anna Maria's cultural connection

With Realize Bradenton in the headlines recently about aiming to make downtown Bradenton a vibrant hot spot, “Cultural Destination” seem to be the latest buzzwords.

In fact, it’s a contagious phrase — in a good way.

I recently had the opportunity to meet a group trying to make a difference for Anna Maria Island — Cultural Connections. It’s mission: promoting the island’s appealing cultural attributes.

Those attributes are more than the white sand beaches that lure thousands of visitors each year. One can only sit on the beach so long before wondering what other things are hidden in this tropical paradise.

That’s where Cultural Connections comes in. It is the guiding light to area festivals, art, theater, history and other must-see events.

While sitting in on a recent meeting, I discovered how the arts grew on the island. It all began with the formation of the Island Players 61 years ago. It took another 40 years, believe it or not, before other arts organizations started popping up on Anna Maria. From that time, most of the arts groups felt, and at times continue to feel somewhat invisible compared to the attention their mainland counterparts receive. So a few of them started meeting informally, eventually evolving into Cultural Connections.

Their mission seems to be working so far as group members helped promote November’s ArtsHop at the beginning of the season. The event attracted more than half of its festival-goers from off the island. Art galleries involved said sales tripled.

The organization hopes to do the same thing during the month-long Festival sARTee surrounding the second annual Ringling International Arts Festival in October.

When I put a call in to Jim Stoltie, board president of the AMI Community Chorus and Orchestra, he said it was important to support Cultural Connections because it helps build a stronger arts effort for an island that has so much to offer. Then he told me his excitement about what he hopes will be his organization’s biggest concert yet, at 2 p.m. today at CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Tickets for its operetta “The Gypsy Baron” are $20 at the door.

Have ideas on how Cultural Connections can best spotlight Anna Maria? E-mail me or leave a comment at