Cortez folk school gets funding offer

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Michael Corley, a consultant with the Patterson Foundation, discusses the Florida Maritime Museum planning and funding proposal Nov. 3 for a folk school. The event was held at Northern Trust in Sarasota. Islander Photo: Kristin Swain

A folk school in Cortez is one step closer to reality.

Florida Maritime Museum supervisor Amara Nash and Karen Bell, longtime Cortez business owner and resident, presented a “fast-pitch” proposal for funding Nov. 3 to potential investors and the Patterson Foundation office in Sarasota — with surprising results.

At the conclusion of the 15-minute presentation, Michael Corley, a consultant with the foundation, announced the museum would receive funding up to half of the $67,000 needed to launch the school — if the remaining funds can be secured by the museum through investors. The Patterson funds will be delivered by Jan. 31, 30 days after the folk school is planned to open.

“Thank you so much,” Nash said. “We’re so grateful to have been a part of this process.”

The next step for the folk school is to secure its share of funding — $33,500 — and prepare to launch the school.

Startup costs are estimated at $67,000, including $5,000 for contingencies and $37,000 for administrative costs — a full-time coordinator. The museum board of directors allocated $6,000, not included in the Patterson matching funds, to hire a part-time consultant to get the school up and running.

The Patterson process included an 18-month series of nonprofit funding labs, which began with 100 organizations and concluded with five “Shark Tank”-style fast-pitch presentations.

The folk school will operate as an arm of the museum with classes taking place at the museum and the historic Burton Store, adjacent to the museum, which is under renovations to be the primary classroom location.

Nash said the school would offer classes in food canning, sewing, quilting, fish-net mending, mast building and fish filleting, among others. Classes in 78 studies are being considered.

Nash said she hopes the folk school will not only provide a path to funding based on fees for classes, but also help preserve the traditions of the historic fishing village.

“People come to Cortez, Anna Maria Island and the surrounding areas for this old Florida historic charm,” she said. But “the cultural identity of this area is slowly being erased.”

Nash said she hopes the folk school will not only appeal to visitors but also to locals who want to learn skills that were needed before the advent of modern shopping and manufacturing.

“We want to get started as soon as possible,” Nash said.

The Florida Maritime Museum is at 4415 119th St. in Cortez.

For more information on the museum or the folk school, contact Nash at 941-708-6121 or email

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