Action Update: Cultural Arts Funding

From Creative Alliance Executive Director Latifah Taormina:

It’s all working.

Please know that already we have lawyers, lobbyists and council members working to see that the language of the Cultural Contract applications due May 1 reverts back to the language approved in December 2009 — as per the recommendation of our Austin Arts Commission last night.

Please hold off on further letters to council till we hear the results of these efforts! If we do not hear positive results by the end of tomorrow, we will ask that you launch more letters. Thanks all who were able to come today to our meetings at the Dougherty Arts Center. And big thanks to Gloria Pennington, Chair of our Austin Arts Commission, and Bruce Willenzik, a longterm stalwart of the Austin arts scene and a long term member of the of the Austin Arts Commission. We were blessed by their presence and leadership.

At this morning”s meeting, we discussed the situation we’re in and strategy for going forward. Deborah Edward, who was there — and who has been a driving force in our city wide CreateAustin initiative— volunteered to sum up the situation we’re in and the action plan that has emerged from our meetings. (See below.)


SITUATION: Based on interpretation by COA legal staff of of the state law governing hotel motel tax allocations , changes were made in the language of the cultural contract guidelines. These revised guidelines impact all COA cultural arts applications due May 1, 2010. The May application is for a two-year funding cycle, and as it stands, it precludes arts groups applying for projects that address arts education as well as projects not interpreted by legal as having a direct impact on tourism. The Arts Commission reviewed these changes last night and passed a motion to return to the approved guidelines from Dec 2009. They are awaiting response for Council members. In the meantime time arts community is concerned about this direct challenge to how Austin interprets the tax code and is ready to put pressure on Council members and others.

PROPOSED ACTIONS THIS MORNING: Short term strategies (next 72 hours)

1. LEARN MORE RE ACTION OF LEGAL DEPARTMENT: Kevin Patterson is working on this and will ask lawyers on his board to get involved to explain.

2. PRESSURE COUNCIL TO ACT ON THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS: All concerned citizens and arts groups to continue to write/call/visit/contact Council members with a set of key messages (see below). This is the item we’re asking you to hold of on till we hear the results of what we’re doing re item #1 above.

3. GET ALLIES INVOLVED: Creative Alliance to reach out to other groups (e.g. Livable Cities, tech community) to secure allies to assist in short term and long term actions

4. GET ON COUNCIL AGENDA FOR NEXT COUNCIL MEETING (APR 8): If Council doesn’t reverse the guidelines decisions, the Creative Alliance will speak at Council meeting.

Medium term strategies:(next 2 weeks)

1. ADDRESS CITY COUNCIL ABOUT THE ISSUE: Either if there’s an urgent need to reverse or a formal need to thank the Council for the reversal. Creative Alliance to lead the way with this.


1. CONVENE AISD/COA/ACF/CREATIVE ALLIANCE/OTHERS to discuss the funding challenges for arts and arts education. – Hide quoted text –



—The Austin way of supporting the arts has been the reason we have such a vibrant creative ecosystem that attracts visitors and businesses. Our ecosystem supports a pipeline of new talent and audiences and provides creative experiences of all kinds to weave a fabric of creative expression.

–The legal ruling narrowly interprets a tax code that is supportive of the concept that making a community creative enhances livability, tourism, economic development.

— Council needs to go on record of being committed to Austin as a destination city (“scene city”) through our diverse cultural arts

— The entire Austin creative community believes that each arts project has a direct impact on economics and tourism, and that restricting hotel-motel funding to only specific performances is misguided and detrimental to our city’s leadership role.

— We are asking Council to reverse the changes in funding guidelines and restore guidelines to the Dec 2009 version, as requested by the Arts Commission.

— We further ask Council to recommit to the permissive language in the original #351 of the tax code (not sure about how to word this for accuracy).

— The arts community is united about the importance of every kind of arts experience to making Austin a leading city in creative enterprise.

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About nowplayingaustin

The Austin Creative Alliance is a nonprofit performing arts service organization working to cultivate an environment where the performing arts can grow and flourish. We serve over 130 arts organizations with marketing, ticketing, audience development services; AEA paymaster, information & referral services — plus access to affordable health, liability, and event insurance. We also provide online professional development seminars, fiscal sponsorship services for emerging arts groups, host annual unified general auditions, annual theatre industry awards, and consistently advocate for the many benefits the arts bring to our quality of life.

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