CRESTVIEW The Friends of the Arts organization, established as a committee to find and fund a grand piano for Warriors Hall, wants to move to the next level in its mission of bringing quality performing arts here and upgrading the hall. Profits from the group's events will go toward improvements in the facility at no cost to taxpayers.

CRESTVIEW The Friends of the Arts, which Gigi Allen established as a committee to find and fund a grand piano for Warriors Hall, wants to move to the next level in its mission of bringing quality performing arts here and upgrading the hall.

"The events we have produced have been of the highest quality, but it is time to become self-sufficient," Friends President Rae Schwartz has said to the Crestview City Council.

Profits from programs including two performances by music historian, author and pianist David Ott and a swing music concert by the UpBeat Jazz Orchestra fund a city account designated for use in upgrading Warriors Hall for future performances, Schwartz said.

The group's city-held account contains $2,519.50, which includes profits from its cultural events and citizen donations toward the piano upkeep, Schwartz said.

"We wish to provide improvements to the hall that will increase its use as a venue for performances and theatre," including installation of theatrical lighting and construction of side wings on either side of the large stage, she said. "No city funds are needed for these projects."

Such improvements would benefit performances by the newly formed non-profit Crestview Community Theatre troupe. The company's co-founder, Sandra Peters, is the Friends of the Arts theatre chairperson.

The Friends can proceed in either of two ways, City Clerk Betsy Roy said.

The group could remain an independent organization, "but would have to control their own funds ... much like the Friends of the Library," she stated in a memo to the city council.

Alternatively, the city would continue to control the group's funds and the Friends "would have to be established as a committee of the city and the members appointed by the mayor and members of the (city) council," her memo stated.

The Friends would comply with the recommendation that is most efficient and beneficial for the city, Schwartz said.

That would mean the committee should operate independently, using members' expertise, rather than have city government appoint members who might lack artistic experience, Mayor David Cadle said.

The city benefits from similar public-private partnerships such as the Main Street Crestview Association program that provide expertise and labor for events that benefit the city at little or no cost to taxpayers.

If the Friends of the Arts' focus remains on enhancing Warriors Hall and raising funds to maintain its grand piano, the group may continue using the hall without incurring facility charges, Roy said.

"As long as all the proceeds from events are entirely spent on the upgrading of Warriors Hall, then that would not be a violation of any facility policies," the memo stated.

All the profits will return to the city, Schwartz said.

Councilwoman Robyn Helt praised the committee for its initiative.

"I think this is great that this (committee) grew," she said. "You took a task and saw it through and now you're ready to move on and tackle bigger things. I am happy to continue a partnership or a relationship with the organization."

She proposed holding a council workshop to discuss the city's partnership with the Friends and clarify its future relationship.

Roy recommended discussing the topic at a proposed March 11 workshop.

- Upcoming cultural events at Warriors Hall include the Friends of the Arts "Sounds of Joy" gospel concert on March 9 and the Crestview Community Theatre production of the comedy "See How They Run" in April.

Contact News Bulletin Arts & Entertainment Editor Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.