Dallas — Dallas is a burgeoning financial center, bringing many jobs to this part of the state and our country. Businesses are relocating their epicenters to Dallas, and new shops, restaurants, and companies make Dallas their home every year.
This interest in Dallas has also brought a call for arts programs and cultural capital to sustain the interest of this new population. Dallas has continually proven itself to be mindful of this demand, and has publicly shown itself to be looking for ways to support the arts. Replete with cultural centers in various parts of the city, the largest community college district in the state, active and growing libraries, the development of the Arts District, and the growth of individual artists, collectives, and arts organizations, Dallas is doing what it can to make itself a city for the arts. Maybe it’s not always the most noticeable, but it is happening and in a variety of ways; notably, the grant programming offered by the City of Dallas.
Federally, funding for the arts has been in dire straits since the 1980s. Facing dramatic budget cuts, the National Endowment for the Arts had to tie up its bootstraps and strategic plan its future steps. All the while, state institutions were feeling the backlash and sorting out what to do about state public arts funding. To briefly summarize what can be a long history lesson, the politics of state public arts funding is a play between interparty competition and agency size.
In 2008, I completed a study, The Politics of State Public Arts Funding, which used research on federal funding and state funding for the arts from 1985 to 2007. As taken from that qualitative and quantitative analysis on state funding:
Commercial appeal…plays a significant role. [In 2007], 40 states were found to have instituted cultural development programs and 32 states had visual arts programs. These programs directly related to the measurement of commercial appeal, which is marked by the building, restoration of arts centers, and tourism. This study found that states attempting to boost their commercial appeal will use the arts as a commodity. Nearly all 50 states have used either cultural development programs or visual arts programs to boost their commercial appeal. In fact, the 32 states that have Public Arts programs have appealed for more arts funding in the last decade. And, the arts have been proven to be an economic benefit. This is supplemented by the fact that participation in the arts is high; at the end of 2002, 76 percent of U.S. adults made the arts a part of their lives.
Texas was one of my case studies and it was determined that the arts do indeed exert an influence on the overall economy of the state, and that we have seen a significant growth in the creative economy in the state overall due to the support of the public sector. In 2012, Americans for the Arts, a national service organization for arts and culture, reported similar findings, but while per capita funding was up in 2000 (the data that was available for use when I completed my study), we have experienced a drop in 2012.
In Arts & Economic Prosperity IV: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and Their Audiences, Americans for the Arts found that nonprofit arts and culture industry are an economic driver in communities. Among their findings, they determined that public sector support for the arts has continued to thrive and provide an economic stimulus, even an economic downturn. Despite this, public funding for creative industries in Texas ranks among the lowest in the nation when viewed from a per capita basis. This presents a significant challenge since Texas has one of the largest and fast-growing populations.
Dallas is one of the cities that experiences that growth, and fortunately, the creative sector here has been found to exert a considerable social and economic clout. We are lucky to have the support of the city and the Office of Cultural Affairs.
Recently, they just awarded their second round of Special Support Grants for artists—up to $5,000—solidifying their effort to support artists at the ground level. To qualify for this particular grant, individual artists or non-profit groups must be producing a project that would be open to the public and would demonstrate value to the city. During this round of grants, the work being proposed had to be produced and/or developed during a specific time period (July 28-Aug. 15, 2015) to encourage an active creative atmosphere. I was one of the artists to receive a grant during this funding period. The award helped to produce and develop the regional premiere of the dance theatre production, The Show About Men, which had said premiere at the Festival of Independent Theatres (FIT). The grant allowed me to work with my collaborators Justin Locklear, Trey Pendergrass, Lori Honeycutt, Liz Metelsky, and the artists of DGDG: the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. This grant has been instrumental in the development of the first iteration of the show, as well as sustaining our ability to bring it back for any future performances.
Artists and theater companies that are a part of the festival benefit from the fact that FIT does not require an application fee, nor does it require a space rental fee or technical fee, and they assist with marketing and crewing your show (and the entire festival), but other marketing efforts and production expenses accrued by the artists and companies selected come out of their own pockets. When those artists are splitting time and resources between their day jobs, households, and basic needs, it obviously becomes difficult to take on bigger artistic projects.
We pay for our set, set design, costumes, miscellaneous technical experiences, rights to music, musical instruments, musicians, performers, etc. Those expenses pile up, and while free space is a bonus—as well as the many benefits, both professionally and financially, that come with being a part of the Festival of Independent Theatres—it doesn’t completely offset the cost of paying fair wages to performers and collaborators. Those payments come from the artists and companies themselves. Festivals like FIT, and grant programs, like the Special Support grant, provide the encouraging and engaging atmosphere needed to form the foundation for their body of work.
I’m honored and motivated to have been selected in the second round of Special Support Grants and to have been able to conceive, direct, choreograph, and produce The Show About Men with an amazingly talented group of individuals. We were able to reach a new audience, make our Festival of Independent Theatres debut, and more importantly, give back to the community that we are proud to be a part of. Dallas is my home. It is the home to the performers that I get to work with every day. It’s part of our mission to create work in our hometown and for our hometown audience. Having our work premiere in Dallas is important for our aesthetic and for our future.
Moreover, the support that the city has been showing to the arts and artists is a hopeful nod to the continued creative success of Dallas.
Here’s hoping that continues to grow.
» Danielle Georgiou is a dance educator, critic and writer. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) and is a working dancer and performance artist. Her column Sixth Position appears the last Sunday of the month on TheaterJones.com.
Previous columns are:
- February 2014: Cash Choreography
- March 2014: Make the Fringe Your Future
- April 2014: Don't Freak Out, It's Just an Audition
- May 2014: You Love Dance. You're Not Alone
- June 2014: Persevering Through Movement
- July 2014: Sharing in Success
- August 2014: To the Barre
- September 2014: Method Act
- October 2014: Fear of Flying
- December 2014: The Editor Dance
- January 2015: Community Relations
- February 2015: The Fabric of Movement
- March 2015: State of the Dance
- April 2015: The Dance Mom Complex
- May 2015: Who Wants to Date a Dancer?
- June 2015: Figured How Men Fit In