Last year, the state granted $45,000 to both the Kimbell Art Museum and the Fort Worth Modern. The museums used the money to bring two exhibitions to North Texas – “Monet: The Early Years” and “KAWS: Where the End Starts.” But according to the Star-Telegram, the grant money that would help bring similar art shows to Fort Worth is on the chopping block.
The grants were a portion of about $5 million that the legislature set aside in 2015 so that the Texas Commission on the Arts could create a grant program that would increase economic development in cultural districts in 2016 and 2017.
“The return on the investment is large,” Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell, tells the Star-Telegram. “These grants help us bring exhibitions such as the Monet show to Texas. It would have been more difficult to bring the show here without the funding.”
Lee said the impact of having exhibitions that feature artists like KAWS and Monet go beyond money. He believes they impact the cultural reputation of a city.
Kendal Smith Lake, manager of communications at the Modern Art Museum, told the Star-Telegram that the KAWS showcase brought 100,000 visitors during it’s stay at the Modern. Yearly the museum averages around 200,000 visitors. The increased number of people strolling through the museum’s galleries also boosted local hotel bookings and sales at the Modern Shop and Cafe Modern.
The Modern also has a museum-hotel package with the Omni Hotel located in downtown Fort Worth and Lake says that the number of packages jumped nearly 300 percent during the KAWS exhibition. And the Star-Telegram reports that sales tax revenue from The Modern Shop and Cafe Modern increased by more than $150,000 during the period.
Officials at both museums told the Star-Telegram that the exhibitions drew tens of thousands to the city and had an economic impact of about $10 million to Tarrant County.
Other Cuts Hit Texas Film Business
Texas Commission on the Arts aren’t the only ones losing money in the upcoming budget. Public radio station KUT in Austin reports that the Texas film industry is scrambling to write a second act as lawmakers make moves to cut the incentive program.
Last week, the Texas Senate cut all funding for the Texas Moving Image Incentive Program from the state budget. A few days later, House lawmakers took the roughly $10 million that the Senate had previously set aside for film incentives and shifted it to the state’s Healthy Texas Women program.
That means 12 years after Texas jumped into the the incentives race, the Lone Star State appears to be bowing out. And so, with six weeks to go in the legislative session, film, TV, commercial and video game producers in the state are going from a rebate program that once had $95 million available for their projects to one with nothing.
Red Sanders, founder of Red Productions in Fort Worth, told Art&Seek recently that these cuts will have repercussions for Texans working in the film industry.
“There’s a lot of politicians out there saying things like, ‘This is just taking money away from single moms trying to pay their bills and giving it to Hollywood elite.’ That’s not the case,” said Sanders. “It only counts for Texas residents and it’s not like they’re going to lower our taxes if they get rid of this program”
Sanders says the only thing that will decrease if they get rid of this program are the number of films that will be filmed in Texas. He’s seeing it first hand.
“We’ve got “Sleeping in Plastic” that’s a Texas-set story that we’re going to go shoot in Oklahoma, because our current incentive program was cut back so much last time that there’s not any money left in the rebate program,” said Sanders.
Gus Sorola, a co-founder of Austin production house Rooster Teeth, told KUT’s Jimmy Maas that a frequent knock against the program is that the jobs are temporary. But that’s not the case for his company.
“We’ve used that program to hire up. I think we’re at 260 employees here now,” he said. “I make the analogy a lot to the old Hollywood studio system, where all of the actors and writers and everyone worked for the studio. That’s what we do. We have all of our actors, all of our writers, everyone works for us full time.”
But with about five weeks to go in the legislative session, Maas reports that the film incentives aren’t dead – yet.
“This has happened to us in the past,” said Mindy Raymond, executive director of the Texas Motion Picture Alliance. “Not to say we’re prepared for it, by any means, to get zeroed out, but we have come back from similar situations and had funding for our programs.”
It Looks Like A Trend
These cuts at the state level come at a time when arts funding nationally seems to be on uneven ground. The Trump administration has proposed cutting funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which funds many NPR and PBS affiliate stations across the state) and eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The NEA contributed $2,172,100 (fall & spring) to the arts in Texas last year, so this could have immediate repercussions to the region. Dallas’ director of Cultural Affairs, Jennifer Scripps, says it’s too early to tell what will happen but says Dallas is going to take a hit if these proposed cuts come to fruition.
“It’s not just the NEA,” says Scripps. “It’s also the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment of the Humanities, which I was not that aware of, but they do a lot interesting things that touch the more literary nonprofits and museums in Texas as well.”
Scripps said that larger cities like Dallas should be able compensate for the potential losses over time. But cities that are dealing with money issues – like Dallas – are not going to make up for the loss of federal dollars, she said. That money is going to have to come from private donors.
This can be especially hard for smaller cities that may not have big institutions or many philanthropists. Funding for the arts in those places will be at higher risk.
“It’s also The Good Housekeeping Seal of approval that the NEA represents,” Scripps said. “When a small organization gets an NEA grant, they are able to say to their board, ‘Look how good of a project we’ve got. Go sell to companies and friends.’”
Scripps said that having the NEA on your side helps groups become established and respected. She fears that by eliminating the NEA or NEH that arts groups may lose that national commitment to excellence.