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An Update on Dallas’ Cultural Vitality Program
by Hady Mawajdeh 29 Jul 2016

This Spring, the Office of Cultural Affairs asked artists to submit proposals for a new Cultural Vitality Program. Now they want your thoughts on the process.

CTA TBD

Last night, approximately 35 people came out to the Latino Cultural Center for the first of two community meetings hosted by the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs to discuss the Cultural Vitality Program (CVP) that was initiated this Spring.

Photo: Hady Mawajdeh

Playwright and Executive Artistic Director of Cara Mía Theatre Co. David Lozano speaking at last night’s meeting. Photo: Hady Mawajdeh

What Is The Cultural Vitality Program?

The CVP is an initiative that aims to support and grow the cultural ecosystem in Dallas by doling out money to arts and cultural organizations as well as individual artists who have ideas that will engage new and diverse populations.

The program has three separate initiatives –  the “Cultural Equity Initiative,” the “Audience and Neighborhood Engagement Initiative” and the “Sustainability and Resilience Initiative.” Read full definitions for each initiative here.

David Fisher, former interim head of the OCA and current Assistant Director of the OCA, told Art&Seek earlier this year that the CVP was started with city money budgeted for this fiscal year. It doesn’t replace other cultural funding programs.

What Is The Purpose Of The Cultural Vitality Program?

The OCA has a $20 million budget and manages and supports the operations of 22 city-owned cultural centers and facilities, including Dallas City Performance Hall, the Latino and Oak Cliff cultural centers, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, the Majestic Theatre, Fair Park Music Hall and WRR-FM.

But, as the former head of the South Dallas Cultural Center Vicki Meek told the Dallas Observer last Fall, much of the structural support in Dallas doesn’t extend to people of color who live, work and create in this city.

There are always people doing things, from all walks of life,” said Meek. “But if we look at the amount of support, which is how I always judge it, it’s still pretty much Eurocentric. Given how large the Latino population is in this city, the proportion of money that goes to Latino organizations is not even close.”

The CVP hopes to change that. The OCA’s David Fisher said last night the city needed to think differently if things are going to change.

“I knew that if we were ever going to move our bread making and our funding to artist forward that we had to carve out an amount of money that wouldn’t just go back to the arts groups and cultural centers,” said Fisher.

How Is The Cultural Vitality Program Doing? 

The OCA's David Fisher addressing the audience. Photo: Hady Mawajdeh

The OCA’s David Fisher addressing the audience.
Photo: Hady Mawajdeh

It’s really quite difficult to say how well the program is going. Last night, Fisher and recently named director of the OCA Jennifer Scripps gave a presentation that listed organizations and artists that received awards for the three separate initiatives and all them received passing scores for meeting the requirements.

But, as playwright and Executive Artistic Director of Cara Mía Theatre Co. David Lozano pointed out, none of the organizations that received grants were minority run organizations.

OCA officials said the tight timeframe for giving out grants was a reason for why some organizations may have been overlooked. But it appears that the quality of grant proposals may have been an issue too. Fisher said that poorly written or constructed proposals had to be passed over for better ones. When asked about training or guidance for making sure you have a proposal that gives you a better chance for acceptance, Fisher said that approved proposals from the first round of CVP grants would be posted on the OCA’s website as a reference.

What’s Next For The Cultural Vitality Program?

The OCA will continue to host conversations with the community to find out how they can better engage new and diverse populations. The next meeting is tomorrow, Saturday, at 11 am.

Last night, Fisher said everything was back on the table for how the money could be spent. If the city budget is approved in September, the OCA will have $225,000 to allocate for the CVP and an additional $120,000 for Special Projects awards. The OCA hopes to reopen the call for grant submissions for CVP in October.

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