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New Money for New Art – from the TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund

by Jerome Weeks 21 Jun 2013 5:17 PM

Three Dallas groups are getting some large amounts of change — up to $40,000 — to develop and premiere new works, including the first music group to win such a grant.


TACA, The Arts Community Alliance, has announced three new grants for premiering art works in Dallas. KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports on what the money will do.

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TACA administers the Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund, which gives out $100,000 in award money to three groups annually. These grants are to be used to develop and premiere new performance works – in music, theater or dance. This is only the second year for the fund. Last year’s recipients include Cara Mia’s recent production of The Dreamers

Steven Walters is co-artistic director of Second Thought Theatre. He is co-writing a new play about Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and  Second Thought will receive $40,000 to produce the play. Walters says the grant will afford him and co-author Erik Archilla the time to work on it. They’ve been tinkering with it since they were students at Baylor, ten years ago. Now they can get serious with it.

“It also gives us the resources we need to actually develop it,” Walters says — meaning Second Thought will stage workshops with live audiences, the better to test the script. “It is also going to help us make a massive leap forward in terms of what we’re trying to do administratively, paying our administrators better.”

Voices of Change becomes the first music ensemble to receive money from the  fund. The $20,000 it will get goes to developing a 30-minute piece by SMU professor of composition Xi Wang. Tibet Fantasia, as the work is called, will feature six musicians, projections and dancers.

And the Undermain Theatre will receive $40,000 for a new play by acclaimed writer Len Jenkin. The play, Abraham Zobell’s Home Movies: Final Reel is the 11th production of a Jenkin work the Undermain has presented — including such recent surreal successes as Port Twilight and Time in Kafka.

Arts patrons wanting to help artists or to have their names associated with groundbreaking new works, are not that unusual. But TACA is set up to support organizations, not individual artists. So why would it fund new works? TACA’s executive director Becky Young has a simple answer.

“If Dallas is going to be a destination for culture, then art has to originate here.”