Arts programs in Fort Worth lost 25 percent of their city funding in September. Today, the Fort Worth City Council took the first steps to find more reliable sources of money for the arts.
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The City Council has created an arts funding task force. The group of about a dozen business and arts leaders will search for new ways to support the city’s cultural institutions.
Right now, the city spends about $800,000 on the arts. But that money comes from the city’s general fund, the same pool that pays for basic services such as police, firefighters and roads. That puts the arts in a tough spot.
“So at the end of the day, they’re going to lose in that competition for resources,” says Bob Benda, a Fort Worth businessman appointed the task force’s leader. “We need to move that into an area where it’s more appropriately seen as a long-term investment in the resources of the community, but we’re not faced with either having proper police and fire protection or community cultural resources.”
Early next year, the task force will study how other cities across the state pay for their arts programs. The city council expects recommendations by the end of March.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price says pulling from other city resources is a possibility.
“This’ll give us a chance for them to look at the ability to maybe use hotel occupancy tax or convention center funds or wherever it happens to be.”
But she also left the door open to looking beyond city funds for the arts.
“And that’s a question this committee will be asking. Should government be funding it, or is it strictly a private group that funds it? … I think all aspects are on the table right now,” she said.
Benda says another goal is to protect arts groups from the annual rollercoaster of city budgeting.
“The arts resources of our community are a very viable economic asset and financial engine. And we should appropriately invest in that,” he said. “I’m hopeful and quite confident that we’ll find some type of mechanism that at least is stable so that our arts organizations in the community can count on a certain level of support from the city on an ongoing basis.”