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Mayor Mike's New Dallas Business/Arts Initiative

by Jerome Weeks 17 Apr 2012 4:35 PM

He re-introduced the City Council’s Arts, Culture and Libraries Committee. Now Mayor Rawlings is pushing to expand area businesses’ contributions to the city’s cultural life. Not only that, he wants them to become best friends forever.


From the man who re-introduced the City Council’s Arts, Culture and Libraries Committee soon after he was elected last fall comes a new push to enhance business-arts cooperation in Dallas.

Last month, Mayor Mike Rawlings’ office sent a letter to leading cultural organizations tasking them with coming up (or polishing off) a range of business membership packages. These would include not just financial support (from $5,000 on up) but also, the letter suggested, offer “more creative ways to engage a firm’s executives and employees (such as ticket discounts, matching contributions, employee events, etc.).”

The aim isn’t just to increase generosity for the overall cultural betterment of the city. It’s to encourage “strong, lasting relationships” between individual firms and culture groups. Rawlings cites Dallas’ long history of arts philanthropy, but with all the major companies in the area, he argues more can be done.

Robert Wilonsky quotes Business Council for the Arts head Katherine Wagner on the fact that, so far, there have been some “50 responses” to the mayor’s letter from such major organizations as the Dallas Symphony and the Dallas Theater Center all the way to the South Dallas Cultural Center. Rawlings charged the City Council’s Arts, Culture and Libraries Committee (chaired by Councilmember Ann Margolin) to work with the Business Council for the Arts on spearheading the new Mayor’s Business/Arts Initiative.

Here’s the letter:




TELEPHONE 214.670.4054

FAX 214.670.0646
March 2012

Dear Arts Leader,

As Mayor of Dallas, I strongly believe that the arts enhance a city’s quality of life, economic growth and business development. Art inspires, brings a wide range of people together and bridges divides.

Over the years, Dallas has been blessed with many generous philanthropists and foundations which have long supported the arts. But there is much room for improvement when it comes to strong, lasting relationships between businesses and the arts. I’m talking about the kind of relationships that go beyond program sponsorships—which are still important—but also include long-term engagement with the company and its employees. A number of corporations do this here, but given all the high quality firms in Dallas, we should have many more.

Recently, you received an e-mail informing you that I am launching the Mayor’s Business/Arts Initiative. Its goal is simple: Creating meaningful, long-term relationships between businesses and our arts institutions. Councilmember Ann Margolin, who chairs the Arts, Culture and Libraries Committee, and Business Council for the Arts, a nonprofit organization whose mission aligns with this initiative, will spearhead this effort.

To that end, I have tapped several top business executives to join this initiative and substantially boost business support for the arts—in financial terms as well as participation. Team members will not advocate for one arts organization over another, but instead help us make the greater case for these partnerships and provide a path forward.

Simplicity is critical. The experience must be as easy as possible. So we are asking interested arts organizations to present (or create) their range of business membership packages. These packages would not only include financial support, but also creative ways to engage a firm’s executives and employees (such as ticket discounts, matching contributions, employee events, etc.) Please consider packages at the $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 or other amounts appropriate to your group. Consider this as a starting point for engagement with the businesses, knowing that you can customize a package as well.

Once a business decides on participation with a specific organization, the firm will be directed to the organizational contact (preferably the Executive Director) for personalized follow up.
Please input your arts sponsorship package(s) by March 31, 2012 at this link:

If you have any questions about the Mayor’s Business/Arts Initiative, please feel free to e-mail or call Katherine Wagner at Business Council for the Arts at 972.991.8300 or [email protected].

We are excited about what’s ahead, and hope you join us as we write a new script for business and the arts in Dallas!

Best regards,
Michael S. Rawlings