Over the years, the organization TACA has raised more than $27 million — and given it to performing arts groups in North Texas. Now, as the group marks its 50th anniversary, it’s making some changes. In this week’s State of the Arts, I sat down with Maura Sheffler, TACA’s Deputy Director, Programs and Marketing, to talk about how the group hopes to transform the arts – and lives – in our community.
You can listen to our conversation above. Here are some excerpts:
TACA’s known for funding performing arts, like theater and opera. Now they’re going to fund visual arts, too. Why? “We’ve revised our vision statement to be focused on innovation and inclusivity and sustainability for the entire cultural sector and when you think about that, it seems a little counter-intuitive that we only support one side of the arts in our grant-making, which is our largest and cornerstone practice, something we’ve been doing since we were founded.”
This year, TACA also announced its desire to fund projects that use the arts to make social change. On examples of the kind of projects they seek: “One of the ones that I think has really been instrumental for us as we’ve thought about this change is the Public Works program at the Dallas Theater Center
“Public Works encourages Dallas Theater Center to go outside their small space in the Arts District. [The Theater Center’s production of “The Tempest” was its first Public Works performance. It included around 100 Dallas residents with little to no professional theater experience in the performance.]
“They’re working with community partners that are not in the arts… Bachman Lake Together, Translation Vickery Meadow…and they’re working with these community partners to bring people into productions. One of the things they do with this program is that they have this anthropologist who watches rehearsals and these activities that they do with these folks at different community centers.
“As they engage in this production, she listens to how their language changes and how they speak about themselves. It goes from negative to this more positive outlook. They are encouraged to do things for themselves so that they can continue to participate.
“It’s this idea that the arts can be used for so much more good, for positively changing people’s lives.”
Every year TACA holds brings in national guests to speak to a topic bubbling up in the local arts community. It’s called the Perforum, and this year, the topic is cross-sector partnerships. What are they?
“Cross sector partnerships are partnerships between arts organizations or the arts sector, and other sectors. That can be social, health education. Public Works Dallas is one that I would say fits in that bucket.
Baylor has an arts and medicine program, where they are really using art-making to improve the lives of patients, to help them therapeutically work through their healing process.”
- Cézanne Charles, Director of Creative Industries at Creative Many, a Detroit-based organization that develops creative people, creative places and the creative economy for a competitive Michigan through research, advocacy, professional practice and communications.
- Lauren Kelley, Executive Director of the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling in New York
- Josephine Ramirez, Former Portfolio Director and Arts Program Director at the James Irvine Foundation
- Susan Saloom, Military and Veterans Arts Initiative Field Specialist, Americans for the Arts’ National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military
On the Perforum:
“It’s this opportunity for the local community to have a conversation about what could we take from their practices and apply here.”
On what’s come out of previous Perforums:
“The New Works Fund came out of one of our earliest Perforums. In 2009, we talked about this idea of artistic excellence, and what does Dallas need to be a really creative city. And then, the next year, we talked about innovation. And the convergence of these two was that if Dallas is really going to be a world class city, we have to encourage art to be created here. We don’t always want to import it from other places.
“We really have used [the Perforum] as an opportunity to put our ear to the ground and understand individual needs, and collective needs, that we can then provide back to the community.”