A Year in the Making, Dallas’ New Cultural Plan Seeks Equitable Arts Funding

The Office of Cultural Affairs's proposal to spread the arts across all social, economics, and geographic area of Dallas will be presented to City Council this month.

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After almost a year of work, a draft of a new cultural plan for the city of Dallas has been released — a bold proposal to make funding for the arts in Dallas span all races, neighborhoods, and cultures.

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Jennifer Scripps

The 106-page plan has 137 initiatives, and was prepared under the direction of Jennifer Scripps, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, a Dallas native who always has been a lover of the arts. It will be presented to the City Council this month.

Proposal requests for a series of new art projects were submitted last winter, and after months of work, 150 community meetings, and the participation of nearly 8,000 Dallas residents, a draft of the new cultural plan was released in August. 

“It’s been a really long and really fun process,” Scripps was quoted as saying by KERA. “It’s brought 8,000 Dallas residents out to talk about arts and culture in their lives and how they experience it, how they participate in it, how it affects their lives.”


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In the draft, Mayor Mike Rawlings called the plan a game changer.

“In 2017, I think many of us were astounded to learn that the arts in Dallas had grown to an $891 million industry responsible for driving 33,000 jobs,” Rawlings said in his welcome letter to Dallasites. “These are the kinds of jobs that try grow the vibrancy of our city —they cannot be outsources, and they bring young people and new companies from all industries to Dallas.”

The plan’s goal of making the arts in Dallas more diverse and inclusive seeks to set a standard that has not always been the case for the city, by bring the arts into less-affluent neighborhoods that previously have been overlooked.

“In 2017, I think many of us were astounded to learn that the arts in Dallas had grown to an $891 million industry responsible for driving 33,000 jobs.”
Mayor Mike Rawlings

“The city of Dallas, through the Office of Cultural Affairs, has acknowledged that historically different communities and different artists, arts organizations have been supported at different levels,” Joy Bailey-Bryant, vice president of Lord Cultural Resources, a firm that helped create the plan, told an audience of Dallas residents at during a city forum in September at Red Bird Mall, according to KERA News. “And that the city has been instrumental in supporting some organizations more heavily than others.”

KERA said she told the audience: “Now, what the city is saying is what we’re going to do is look to and act on opportunities to bolster those places where there’s been an inequitable investment in arts and culture.”

The plan has six priorities

Since the plan’s release, city forums were held in early September and revisions were made. Overall, however, the plan still has six priorities: 

  • Equity
  • Diversity
  • Space
  • Support for artists
  • A sustainable arts ecosystem
  • Communication

 

Dallas had not undertaken a new arts and culture planning process since 2002, but that is not to say improvements to Dallas’s arts world have not been made. The Office of Cultural Affairs oversees 23 different cultural facilities, employs more than 100 people, and awards more than $6 million in cultural funding every year. 

Additionally, over the past few years the Dallas arts world has experienced a lot of growth, including: 

  • The opening of the Perot Museum and the Dallas Arts District 
  • The start of free admission to the Dallas Museum of Art
  • The opening of the Dallas Children’s Theater building 
  • Several new performance groups have made the Dallas theater scene even more abundant

Under the plan, by 2023, the Office of Cultural Affairs seeks to dedicate 40 percent of its funding for cultural services to artists of color, KERA said. Advocates for the plan say the yearlong process will result in a more-inclusive and engaging art presence soon in Dallas. 

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