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About Us | Friends of the Key Largo Cultural Center

On March 25, 2011 a group of approximately twenty-five civic minded citizens met with Commissioner Sylvia Murphy, County Administrator Roman Gastesi and Project Engineer Kevin G. Wilson to explore means by which the Murray E. Nelson Government Center’s 250 seat theater could be enhanced and improved to include much needed dressing rooms and bathroom facilities for performing artists and event participants. The theater was built as part of the government center in January of 2009, but never fully completed.

The members of the new group organized themselves into a committee, which they named the “Friends of the Key Largo Cultural Center”, and elected a Board of Directors and appointed officers. The new board consists of, Kay Thacker, President, Lynda Kaplin Vice President, Pauline Klein, Secretary and Dave Anders, Treasurer, along with board members Nola Acker, Moe Saah, Debra Ginsberg and Robert Gintel.  Other committee members included representatives from a variety of local organizations such as the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, The Key Players, Key Largo Rotary, YMCA, First State Bank, Bank of America, TIB, Pirates on the Water, Island of Key Largo Federation of Homeowner Associations, Inc., GLEE, Key Largo Civic Club, Sons and Daughters of Italy, Protec e2, Kiwanis Club of the Upper Keys, along with other caring and concerned citizens of the community. 

A mission statement was developed to outline the goals and objectives of the new organization, which are:

1.) To develop plans to enhance and improve the functionality of the theater portion of the Murray Nelson Government and Cultural Center in an effort to make this a modern event facility.

2.) To use this improved facility to attract affordable entertainment, educational programs and events to Key Largo.

3.) To conceive, explore and support various ideas and programs which could utilize the theater/auditorium for the benefit of Key Largo visitors, tourists and residents in an effort to make Key Largo a destination point for cultural tourism. These programs may include a variety of activities such as live theatrical productions; first run projected movies, year round creative camps for kids, educational seminars and lectures, important community events, meetings, photography, art shows, exhibits, competitions and horticultural events among others.

4.) To form a 501 (c) 3 to assist with grant writing and other fund raising events to help raise tax - exempt monies for the Friends of Key Largo Cultural Center.  After several meetings the participants decided to organize into several sub-committees including:  Event, Marketing, Ticket Sales, Concession sales and  Movie Committee for which additional interested community members will be asked to volunteer and become involved.

“We will finally have a quality cultural events center where the citizens, tourist, and visitors can enjoy first rate events” says Debra Ginsberg.

The new  “Friends of the Key Largo Cultural Center” applied to both Key Largo’s DAC -5, and Islamorada’s DAC- 4, for funds for capital improvement funds to complete the Murray Nelson Cultural Center. Islamorada’s DAC- 4 provided $60,000.00 and Key Largo’s DAC -5 provided $90,000.00 to complete this capital project. This funding will help smooth the progress of completing the Murray Nelson Cultural Center. The Center commenced operation in January 2009 but high operating fees have disadvantaged subsequent cultural events.  Consequently, the theater/auditorium remained primarily underutilized since inception. However, the County recently reduced these fees so that the cultural center is now a viable and affordable alternative for hosting cultural events. 

“I am overwhelmed and so pleased with the community support for this endeavor” says Kay Thacker.  “This awe-inspiring broad based support by our businesses, civic clubs, private citizens, and County governmental officials proves this is a project worthy of TDC capital funding”.

Wasting no time, under the direction of Events Coordinator, Debra Ginsberg, the group got off to a remarkable start. And by the last week in August had presented six by-weekly jazz concerts and graduated a 5 week summer camp program for children wishing to learn about theatrical arts which culminated in a very successful and well received live performance by the children involved.

Looking to the future, a number of exciting events are in various planning stages. These include among others:

1.  Another series of Jazz concerts next year.

 An Ocean Life lecture series. A high quality monthly Marine science that entertains and educates the members and visitors of all ages.

3. Various shows and theatrical productions including The Rocky Horror Show, Steel Magnolias, Run for your Wife, Who Killed The Director, And both a Rhythm Festival and a Folk Festival.