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A Day Later, Dallas Arts Funding Still in Peril


by Danielle Georgiou 18 Jun 2009

Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a Dance Lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington where she serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. She is also a member of Muscle Memory Dance Theatre – a modern dance collective. Danielle is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Arts and Humanities at […]

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Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is a Dance Lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington where she serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. She is also a member of Muscle Memory Dance Theatre – a modern dance collective. Danielle is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas, and her first book, The Politics of State Public Arts Funding, is out now.

Yesterday, I posted that the Dallas City Manager would present the latest budget recommendations that included the abolishment of the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. The proposal would put arts and culture under the Library Department. Even though citizens turned out yesterday for the briefing, the City Manager is moving forward with her budget recommendations.

In response, the Dallas Area Cultural Advocacy Coalition is preparing to mobilize its supporters to write letters opposing the proposal.  “We fought hard in the late 1990s to create an independent department for Arts and Culture,” says Joanna St. Angelo, Executive Director of the Sammons Center for the Arts. “For years, the arts were under the Parks and Recreation Department and we were the poor stepchild in the arrangement.”

Currently, the Office of Cultural Affairs is a small department with about 50 employees, most of who are deployed in the cultural centers. To combine it with a much larger department makes no sense.  In fact, if you look at the politics and economics of such a switch, it does not make fiscal sense:

  • The savings realized are not enough to justify the problems this switch would cause.
  • This fall, the city of Dallas will be opening the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, and we need the roll out to be the best it can be, and to credit our city.
  • It is imperative that we have a strong, independent Office of Cultural Affairs to help with this effort (just like New York and Washington, D.C. do, where the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts are housed, respectively.)
  • The Dallas City Council just voted to use $50 million in taxpayer funds to build a convention center hotel. If we are to be competitive with Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, we need the arts to attract the tourists, conventions and conferences that will make the investment successful.
  • Dallas does not have beaches, mountains, natural wonders or casinos. But we do have  a vibrant, diverse arts community. We must have an independent Office of Cultural Affairs to work with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to sell this city.

The City Manager’s briefing material cited these very cities and their budget challenges along with their proposed cost savings. Cutting the arts was not listed for any of these major cities in the materials presented yesterday.

The arts are a proven economic driver and are part of the solution to the current crisis. “We should not throw the baby out with the bath water to gain a very small, short-term advantage in favor of long-term growth,” says St. Angelo.

If you couldn’t make the briefing yesterday, there are two other opportunities to have your voice heard:

  • June 22 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center – 7900 Northaven Road, Dallas
  • June 25 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Winfrey Point at White Rock Lake – 950 E. Lawther Drive, Dallas

For more information, visit the Dallas Area Cultural Advocacy Coalition Web site or call 214.520.7789.

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