All Points: Is arts funding vital or just 'nice'?

Posted Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints



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Fort Worth's policy of paying for public art by reserving 2 percent of the cost of bond projects toward that goal may be altered by the City Council before an expected $276 million bond election scheduled next year. Meanwhile, a citizens task force is studying how to get more city funding for community arts groups. Where do you come down on this issue, for more city money for the arts or less?

Needs before wants

It is nice to have something to look at while you're waiting for AAA to tow your car out of that mammoth hole in the street. Public art is nice, but I was brought up to believe that necessities were to be taken care of before "nice."

The city's necessities are safety, health and infrastructure. And that pesky pension problem, although that's not bond money. Millions more tax dollars could be used for much-needed street repair and fire engines for those new stations needing to be built in our expanding city. We need to prioritize prudently.

Let's get back to the olden days when art patrons paid for the arts instead of scarce public funds subsidizing them.

-- Peggy Thomas, Fort Worth

Shifting attitude

In 1992, my then-husband finished his medical training, and we were faced with the decision of where to settle down. We knew that a city with such institutions as the Modern, Kimbell and so many others would provide us with the quality of life we sought.

It has been interesting to observe the trajectory of arts funding since I moved here. No one questioned the importance of the arts 20 years ago. Now, I find myself constantly defending the very nature and inherent purpose of the arts.

Arts administrators have presented our leaders with the numbers that show economic impact. We have provided ample evidence of value to children. We have stories, pie charts, statistics and testimonials to show that the arts are beneficial to every aspect of life. All we need now are people willing to hear and acknowledge the facts.

-- Kathleen Culebro, Fort Worth

Personalizing art

My guess is that the questioning of the 2 percent public art funding from the bond program is based on installations that appeal to a small group and often seem irrelevant to the context of their space. Once the dedication ceremony is held, there is little or no public interaction.

While no one pays to visit The Bean in Chicago, the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park or even the Mark Twain bench on the Trinity, the art invites you into it, to become a part of it, and then it is personal to you. Encouraging this approach would yield more advocates for funding.

Programs such as the Cliburn competitions are justified in seeking hotel/rental car tax revenues. Their economic contributions are easily quantified. Can the 2 percent be shared with institutions such as this?

-- Adelaide Leavens, Fort Worth

Luxuries last, not first

Proper management of money dictates that luxuries are not included in budgets unless there is an excess of money after all necessities are satisfied. Art is one of the luxuries of life, and the citizenry would heartily support the acquisition of such when in a prosperous economy. Let us first take care of necessities that promote industry, jobs and the welfare of our citizenry.

-- Grady Fuller, Kennedale

More than the basics

For a city whose slogan is "Cowboys and Culture," it's high time that our city leaders put their money where their mouth is and invest in Fort Worth's culture.

Fort Worth is the envy of cities across the country with its abundance of cultural icons, from our world-renowned museums to our nationally recognized symphony orchestra. Yet, city support pales in comparison to other major Texas cities, including our friend to the east.

The continued stability, and perhaps the very existence, of these arts organizations are threatened when the city neglects to adequately fund them. In September, Mayor Price said that city funding should focus on "the basics: police, fire, transportation, code." Surely, a great city is much more than that.

-- Amy Adkins, Fort Worth

Use hotel taxes

I strongly urge the council to adopt the concept using hotel occupancy tax (HOT) receipts to help fund the arts in Fort Worth. This is one of the original purposes of this tax -- to provide funding to the arts institutions that help generate the tax by selling the rooms. Studies commissioned by Americans for the Arts show that art institutions generate $85 million of economic activity to area hotels, restaurants and other businesses annually, supporting more than 3,000 full-time jobs and generating $11.2 million in local and state government revenue.

Every other major city in Texas uses the HOT to fund arts except one (Dallas). Fort Worth needs to step up and support our best-in-class arts programs.

-- Travis E. Baugh, Fort Worth

Difficult choices

I serve as a board member for one of our fantastic local theaters and have served as a grant panelist for the Arts Council. Year after year, I have seen the Arts Council funding get cut, and I see the struggle for small and mid-size organizations to keep their doors open. Many may not, as the arts get pushed further and further down the priority list.

When faced with decisions on fund distribution that lumps the arts in with unemployment, education and homelessness, of course it seems like the right thing to put off arts funding. But I believe that the arts are crucial to our economy, to the educational enrichment of our youth to making a community strong, healthy and whole.

-- Karen Kirk, Fort Worth

West Texas resource

The arts in Fort Worth are so very appreciated. Living in the Permian Basin, the closest quality opera, symphony and museum fare is Fort Worth. The simple fact that you have these available draws hotel/motel and travel funds statewide. It would be a shame for you to lose travel dollars for lack of quality venues. Please continue your support at the same level or greater. It is of great benefit for Fort Worth.

-- Kathy Rhodes, Odessa

Inadequate allocation

I believe the city should be giving at least 10 percent to the arts. A 2 percent allocation is shameful.

-- Lisa Rein, Arlington

The only conscionable change would be to increase funding for the arts.

-- Yvonne Johnson, Fort Worth

Opera contributions

As the general director of Fort Worth Opera, obviously I am in favor of more arts funding. We are dealing with decreased corporate dollars and donor fatigue during the recession.

The FW Opera Festival last year provided the city with more than 2,100 hotel room nights. People traveled to see the opera, but they stayed in our city, ate in our restaurants and spent money in our town. The opera alone is adding a good deal to the tax base.

It will be awfully hard to entice new corporations to town without the benefit of the rich artistic life we enjoy. The city of Fort Worth now spends less than 93 cents per capita on the arts -- among the lowest in the state.

-- Darren K. Woods, Fort Worth

Leadership skills

It is imperative to keep funding the arts in Fort Worth. Some people grow through select soccer, baseball, volleyball and tennis. What about the children and teens who don't? Kids Who Care provides a solid platform that is teaching my child how to be part of a generation of strong leaders. If anything, it should be taken more seriously.

-- Lauren Wall, Fort Worth

Community arts

Where do kids stoke their creativity?

Where do adults bond with their inner child?

It is community arts that contribute to a fuller, more vibrant Fort Worth -- so it is Fort Worth that should contribute to the funding and promotion of those community arts programs.

-- Rhonda Krasselt, Fort Worth

Support the Cliburn

I hope the city will strongly support the Cliburn competition. The revenue and the worldwide interest that the Cliburn brings to Fort Worth are so vital to the city's future.

-- Martha Williams, Fort Worth

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