When the budget ax falls at City Hall, the Office of Cultural Affairs is an easy target, because no matter how much economic impact the arts claim to generate, trimming grants to niche cultural groups is a lot easier than firing police and firefighters.
The department is designed to cope with this by leveraging private dollars to extend the impact of its official budget, which is around $20 million. But OCA's advisory arm, the Cultural Affairs Commission, is looking to further buffer itself from the city's budgetary whims.
On Wednesday, the commission will have the first meeting of its Sustainability Task Force, sustainability in this instance being a term-of-art among nonprofits referring to an organization's ability to survive.
OCA director Maria Munoz-Blanco said the task force was formed by the CAC's current chair (and former executive director of the Texas Commission on the Arts). I left him a voicemail, but the agenda for Wednesday's meeting hints at the direction he's looking. At the top of the list is a proposal to work with the Dallas Conventions and Visitors Bureau to better market the city's cultural offerings, with a focus on increasing visibility in local hotels.
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Also up for discussion are voluntary fees (Texas State of the Arts specialty license plates are given an example), agreements with local foundations to fund the long-term upkeep of public art, and amendments to the city's cultural policy. The overriding goal, though, is to increase the OCA's budget and be able to provide larger grants to local organizations. The task force will issue formal recommendations after six months.