The Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition, which among other endeavors in the arts organizes a regional plein air painting event each spring, received a nice boost last week from the Duke Energy Foundation.

As part of the foundation’s efforts to enhance access to the arts and promote diversity, it disbursed more than $504,000 to 55 non-profit arts and culture agencies.

Among those was a $20,000 grant to the FCCC for “Forgotten Coast en Plein Air Events.”

According to Cheryl Ploegstra with the FCCC, the grant money will be used during the 14th annual Forgotten Coast en Plein Air which arrives in May.

Artists will focus on themes of the natural environment and conservation, as with every one of the prior 13 plein air events.

The grant money will be used to extend the reach of FCCC marketing for Plein Air with an aim at establishing the Forgotten Coast as a cultural destination, Ploegstra said.

Additionally, the money will enable the FCCC to continue the artist outreach programs during the Plein Air Paintout such as Student Art Day, the Artist in Residency program and supporting “Florida’s Finest” artists, Ploegstra added.

“Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition is delighted with the support of Duke Energy, a treasured partner in promoting the arts in our local communities for many years,” said Susan Bassett, President of the FCCC.

“Our signature event, Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, is in its 14th year and has a major impact in showcasing our area as a destination for culture and the arts.”

Bassett noted that invited artists travel from all over the country and Europe for the 10-day plein air event.

“They all love our Southern hospitality and warm reception of their beautiful art and leave as ambassadors for our area, telling the stories of our bays, our seafood industry and our natural beauty,” Bassett said.

Those artists help spread the word about the people and small businesses that dot the Forgotten Coast from Alligator Point and Carrabelle to St. George Island and Apalachicola to Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas and Mexico Beach.

“They leave us a better, more vibrant community with each passing year, not only in the arts, but economically as well,” Bassett said. “We salute Duke Energy for their generous support in this important endeavor.”

Duke Energy’s support helps a number of organizations to fulfill missions across the state while encouraging minority business development, access to the arts, filmmaking and community development.

The grant to the FCCC was the fourth-largest in this grant cycle; the largest, $60,000, went to an arts diversity initiative that spanned four Central Florida counties.

The FCCC grant was among 10 individual grants that exceeded $10,000.

“Research shows communities that embrace diversity and have strong cultural resources are healthier, better educated and safer,” said Catherine Stempien, President of Duke Energy Florida.

“We are proud to support philanthropic programs that expand the accessibility of the arts and culture and help strengthen the nonprofit community through professional development programs. These grants will positively impact the communities where our customers live and work and further our diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

The Duke Energy Foundation annually funds more than $33 million to communities through the utility’s seven-state service area.

In 2017 alone, the company donated more than $5 million to nonprofit organizations in Florida.

In addition to Forgotten Coast en Plein Air, the FCCC is also the sponsoring organization for The Joe Center for the Arts on Reid Ave. in Port St. Joe.