The Artist Foundation is no more. On Thursday, Department of Arts and Culture Director Debbie Racca-Sittre announced to the Arts Funding Committee of the San Antonio Arts Commission that the nonprofit foundation, one of only two individual artist regranting programs in the city, recently voted to dissolve.
Operations of the Artist Foundation of San Antonio’s regranting program will be taken over by Luminaria, an arts nonprofit charged with running the city’s only contemporary arts festival, beginning with the 2020 regranting cycle, Racca-Sittre said.
Organizations that operate regranting programs receive City funding for redistribution to individual artists. The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) operates San Antonio’s other regranting program.
Since 2006, the Artist Foundation has annually granted up to $92,000 to at least one artist in each of three categories: performing arts, visual arts, and literary arts, with each artist receiving between $5,000 and $15,000 for their individual projects. More than 100 artists have received grants through the program.
Department of Arts and Culture funding totaled $40,000 each year in the three-year 2018-2020 funding cycle, with 2020 funding remaining to be distributed.
Earlier Thursday, the City approved the merger contract to shift funding already granted to the foundation to Luminaria, which took over operations of the Artist Foundation’s application process for the 2019 granting cycle, “in an effort to provide more unified support for applicants and grantees throughout the year,” the all-volunteer foundation announced in February.
Grantees awarded in the 2019 cycle were invited to display artwork during the Luminaria festival in November. According to Racca-Sittre, the two organizations had been in talks for several months to move the regranting program.
The Artist Foundation was founded in 2005 by artists Bettie Ward and Patricia Pratchett to assure San Antonio artists “continued opportunities and support,” according to its website. “As founders, they share a vision of a community where artists help shape the identity of our area by influencing how we look, sound and feel both to residents and visitors,” it states.
The foundation was supported by a combination of public funding from the City of San Antonio and Bexar County and private funding from donors including the Tobin Endowment and Tobin Theatre Arts Fund, the Linda Pace Foundation, the Lifshutz Foundation, and the Liberto family of San Antonio-based Ricos Products.
In 2017, the foundation did not give out any grants and subsequently underwent a reorganization, emerging for the 2018 cycle with Cinnabar gallery owner Susan Heard as board chair. Heard served for one year, replaced by arts worker Leslie Chasnoff, with Olga Kauffman as vice-chair. Secretary Katy Silva, director of development for the Rivard Report, left the board Oct. 1.
A former board member said management of the grant program proved difficult with no full-time staff members and a small, volunteer board of directors. Luminaria has a full-time director, Kathy Armstrong, and recently hired an administrative manager.
“Maybe an artists’ regranting organization needs to have a paid staff running it,” Racca-Sittre said.
Racca-Sittre plans to announce the merger to the full Arts Commission on Tuesday.