Fort Worth Arts Community Contributes to Economic, Cultural Health of City

At the June meeting, a panel discussion on Arts and Arts Policy revealed how much the visual, performing and public arts contribute to the city of Fort Worth on a relatively modest budget. Panelists Karen Wiley, president, Arts Council of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Kathleen Culebro, artistic director Amphibian Stage Productions., and Jennifer Casler Price, curator for Asian and Non-Western Art, Kimbell Art Museum, and chair, Fort Worth Art Commission enlightened the audience about the need for sustainability at the city’s most treasured art institutions.

How you can help the Arts in Fort Worth


Price said that 2017 is the 15-year anniversary of the city’s art master plan which uses a 2 percent assessment on the water bill to fund the Fort Worth’s arts community. The contribution, once automatic, is now an optional grant and must be defended annually. A second 15-year master plan is now being drafted.


“We have a little over $1 million to fund the art is 2018,” she said. “In five years, I’d like to see an iconic art piece in Fort Worth that defines our city like the bean identifies Chicago.”


She added that the funding provides for more than 10,000 students annually to visit museums by paying for school buses to transport them. Fort Worth’s funding level for the arts is lower than all other cities of its size in Texas.


Wiley continued the thread by describing how the Arts Council provides funding to 453 artists and two theaters offering 400 productions last year. The Council supports an independent venue where artists can work and create.


Amphibian Theater, a boutique company, is a nonprofit that helps bring art to the community. “Nonprofits fill in where educational funding has declined in the schools, “ Culebro explained. “Diversity in our audiences depends on reasonable pricing. Arts funding makes that possible. We are under constant pressure to do more with less and serve a diverse group of supporters.”


The panelists were universally worried about the potential abolishment of federal funding for the arts and the impact it would have on local services.


Price explained that federal funding pays for the insurance that makes it possible for major exhibitions to come to the Kimbell. “Without that support, we cannot bring those exhibitions to Fort Worth,” she said.


Local support for the arts is critical. “Some see the arts as a luxury, but it is necessary to the wellbeing, mental health and cultural identity of a city. Fort Worth may be thriving, but we have to keep people here. Arts are part of the quality of life in this city,” Price said.


Wiley added that the arts are an industry and contribute to the city’s robust economic climate. An annual report to be unveiled to the Fort Worth City Council indicates that in 2015 the cultural sector contributed $450 million to the economy. The report verifies that the community created almost 15,000 jobs and added $56 million in revenues and taxes. More than 6,000 volunteers from board members to ushers put in almost 300,000 hours at a value of $7 million.


“Policy makes a difference,” Culebro said. “We need a steady stream of revenue rather than depending on donors. Our current level of funding is not acceptable for a city of our size.”


Price’s goal would be to reach 2 percent of new money going to the arts by a certain date.


“If we don’t have the arts, what kind of city are we?” Wiley said. “We are certainly not a city of Cowboys and Culture.”

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