On March 30, 2020, we announced the 46 recipients of our annual TACA Arts General Operating (AGO) Grants. The AGO Grant program is our largest granting program and it provides annual, unrestricted grants to nonprofit performing and visual arts organizations in Dallas County. Organizations can use this unrestricted funding as they see fit on an array of expenses, including program costs, salaries, administration, office expenses, technology or to meet other operational needs.
Of the 46 organizations we funded, five of them are new TACA grant recipients – including Bishop Arts Theatre Center!
We had the opportunity to chat via email with Teresa Coleman Wash, Executive Artistic Director/Founder at Bishop Arts Theatre Center, to learn more about the organization, what makes them special, and how folks might get involved.
Tell us about Bishop Arts Theatre Center and the work you do.
Teresa: Bishop Arts Theatre Center (BATC) is a performing arts venue for artists to hone their craft, a gallery space to create opportunities for visual artists, and a shared workspace for fledgling arts groups who are trying to build capacity. Our theater is a flexible space that is economically sustainable because of its diverse income sources and community driven ethos. We offer a full season of theater performances, jazz concerts, speaker series events, and year-round arts education programs. More importantly, we consider ourselves to be a neighborhood resource center not only for artists but also for the community-at-large. Our organization has grown organically over the past 26 years and reflects the fabric of our local community that affects and informs the work on our stage.
How would you say Bishop Arts Theatre Center is different from other organizations in town? What makes you unique?
Unlike most arts organizations in Dallas, we own our space – although that might be considered a detriment post COVID-19 – so we are able to offer a myriad of programming. We tout ourselves as creative problem solvers working in partnership with educational institutions like the City of Dallas Park & Recreation Department, our local government, and aging facilities. One of my favorite programs that we offer is a storytelling circle for seniors called Silver Stories. Ironically enough, the program was designed to prevent social isolation and loneliness that bring on health issues like dementia. Needless to say, Covid-19 has exacerbated those concerns. Three weeks ago, we launched PatioLive!, a partnership with memory care facilities to provide weekly performances on patios and parking lots of aging facilities. We were determined not to abandon our seniors during this global pandemic.
Why is what you do important? Why should people pay attention?
After the renovations of our building back in 2008, we held focus group meetings and asked our benefactors, “What are we doing that you’d like to see us do more of and what programs would you like to see us implement?” Those conversations informed our programming. Our summer theater camp, theater series and jazz concert series were born out of those conversations and all of those offerings thrived pre-COVID-19. I believe the 21st century theatre is one that connects with its community on a deeper level. This has always been at the core of our values at BATC. Often times, theatre is considered a quality of life issue, but I think we are so much more than that. Arts and arts groups are needed now more than ever. We are intrinsic innovators.
If someone were interested in getting more involved with BATC, what would you recommend they do?
I’m going to call out one of our board members on this question. Deepika Ramesh started as a volunteer for our organization years ago. She kept coming back over the years and finally I asked her to join our board. Today, Deepika is Vice Chair and she has been such a tremendous asset to our organization. So I would say if there is someone who is interested in being engaged with our organization, consider volunteering. We are always looking for box office assistance, stage hands, ushers, and really anyone who is willing to help out wherever needed. Volunteers are the life blood of our organization.