Mayor on Council's Arts Committee: Dallas Needs to Be "Smart, Cultured, Creative City"

Upcoming is a chat I had this morning with Corinne Hill, the interim director of the Dallas Public Library system. I called her to talk about the new Arts, Culture & Libraries Committee debuted on Tuesday when Mayor Mike Rawlings sent word of his new council committee appointments. She said she didn't know much about the committee, which will be chaired by Ann Margolin and is tasked with coming up with a plan for finding "alternative funding sources for arts, culture and libraries." Hill suggested I ask the mayor or Paula Blackmon, his chief of staff. Blackmon offered a few thoughts, which will follow, after which she said the mayor would call. Which he just did.

So, then. Why the new committee?

"I believe that we'll never be this great city we all talk about from time to time unless we are a smart, cultured and creative city," Rawlings says. "I think we need to make sure we put structure around that desire in some manner. We spend a lot of time and money at City Hall talking about things, and I realized we didn't have that voice in that dialogue. So that's it from a strategic standpoint.

"From a tactical standpoint, I think there are people that want more funding for the libraries. And the AT&T Performing Arts Center, we're not funding it as we should be -- we're committed to $2.5 million and have only paid $1.5 million. And, there are our many cultural centers and the new City Performance Hall coming online. I wanted to make sure we had the wisdom of some of the city council people" involved in those funding discussions.

I asked: When we begin talking about alternative funding, immediately one thinks the city will start asking private corporations to help foot the bill. Because short of a bond program, there's no way the city will begin to up its contributions. To which Rawlings replies: Yes and no.

"I look forward to other private companies wanting to help out," he says. "But that's not why I did the committee. I'd like to string it together with three, four other ideas. One of the things I asked Ms. Margolin was to make sure we think about how we get creative with regards to funding these major projects. And most people, when they hear, that they think private money. And, yes, we need to do that, but it's not the council's job to raise private money. There are a lot of different ways for us to think about how we do that."

Such as ...?

"The minute I lay something out, people will start debating that issue," he says, "and that's not where I want the focus right now. Let people in a good forum talk about the ways we can do it. And by the way, this is a joint enterprise There are a lot of arts enterprises I want to make sure we listen to on how to best do this. I said this during the campaign: There are three acts of a great cultural city. Act One is to make sure we have the infrastructure and edifice. Act Two is to operate them in a world-class manor. And Act Three is to make art -- to have writers and artists flourish in the city. We're finishing Act One and entering Act Two, and I hope we can get through it as quickly as we can."

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