TACA Takes Action to Support a Reeling Arts Community November 19, 2020

Just days following the successful TACA 2020 Silver Cup Award luncheon honoring Matrice Ellis-Kirk and former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, a new reality set in and questions began to swirl about the pandemic’s effects on the arts in Dallas.

Initial Response & The TACA Emergency Arts Relief Fund

As we witnessed the rapid wave of closures and cancellations, TACA’s leadership quickly acknowledged that our planned AGO grant distribution needed to be supplemented by a form of emergency aid. With a goal of raising $150,000 designated for small- to mid-sized arts organizations, we announced our Emergency Arts Relief Fund on March 30, having already surpassed our goal by raising more than $350,000. By late July, the fund total exceeded $705,500. Through three rounds of grants, we distributed $595,500 to 87 local nonprofit arts organizations including TITAS/Dance Unbound, Cara Mía Theatre Co. and Women’s Chorus of Dallas.

With 13 New Works and Artist Residency project grants in-process representing $327,500, we made a decision to relax restrictions on those grants with permission from our generous donors. For TACA, relaxing those restrictions meant giving organizations permission to use the previously restricted grants to fill their most critical and urgent needs due to the public health crisis.

The TACA Resiliency Initiative

About halfway through the Emergency Arts Relief Fund cycle, we had another moment of clarity. Our pre-pandemic plan had been to launch our annually recurring Arts General Operating (AGO) Grant program in August 2020. But because the AGO Grant program is anchored in the ability of volunteer grants panelists to observe the artistic programming of applicants, and most organizations were forced to cancel all public, in-person programming for the foreseeable future, we realized we would need to revise this grant program. Additionally, at the start of the pandemic, we had temporarily suspended our in-person capacity-building workshop series – the Amplifier Workshops – which provided free professional development to the local arts community. Now maybe more than ever, organizations needed expertise and guidance to navigate this unprecedented landscape.

From this dynamic, we conceived the TACA Resiliency Initiative (TRI) – a multifaceted program that provides support through grants, capacity-building workshops, and thought leadership initiatives – to ensure the Dallas arts community continues to survive and thrive. The TRI has three primary components – Resiliency Grants, Pop-Up Grants and the Resiliency Workshops. The TACA Resiliency Initiative acts as a temporary replacement for TACA’s pre-pandemic mission programming and was built on the following guiding principles:

FLEXIBILITY. Programming by arts organizations and its evaluation are both completely different in our new pandemic era. For that reason, TACA chose to suspend all targeted grant funds (e.g., the New Works and Artist Residency Funds) and only disburse unrestricted grant dollars so grant recipients can use those funds to address their most pressing needs.

FREQUENCY. As arts organizations enter uncharted cash flow territory, they need access to funding more frequently than they would in a normal environment. The Resiliency Grants program grew TACA’s unrestricted grant distribution from an annual schedule to three grant disbursements a year. This program is supplemented by competitive monthly grant distributions from our Pop-Up Grants program which began in August 2020.

RELEVANCY. Because of the drastic change in the landscape, TACA reduced and adjusted its grantmaking criteria to better reflect what organizations are navigating. Additionally, the content of TACA’s Resiliency Workshops (formerly the Amplifier Workshops) shifted to focus on the current challenges organizations are facing, like medical guidance and sustained collaboration.

Cry Havoc Theater’s “Project Ghostlight,” a TACA Pop-Up Grant Recipient

As of the publication of this blog, TACA has…

  • Awarded 16 Pop-Up Grants totaling $25,000 with monthly distributions planned through May 2021
  • Awarded the first of three cycles of our Resiliency Grants – 30 grants totaling $200,500. The application for second cycle will launch in January of 2021.
  • Produced two Resiliency Workshops that were attended by over 150 participants. The next workshop – scheduled for January – will be announced before the end of the year.
  • Presented our first-ever fully-virtual TACA Perforum symposium that focused on the “Relevance, Relationships, and Reimagining” of arts and culture.

Despite the incredible and unprecedented head winds we have faced – and will continue to face as we procced into 2021 – we are grateful beyond words for the support TACA has received to support and sustain the arts in our city. And we are more appreciative than ever for art and the inspiration and beauty it brings to life.

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