San Antonio Arts Commission Meeting
The seven-member Arts Agency Funding Committee of the San Antonio Arts Commission had previously reviewed the funding recommendations and unanimously approved them Thursday. Credit: Stephanie Marquez / San Antonio Report

Funding recommendations for San Antonio arts-focused nonprofits have tentatively been approved for 2020. The seven-member Arts Agency Funding Committee of the San Antonio Arts Commission had previously reviewed the funding recommendations and unanimously approved them Thursday.

The recommendations now will go before the full Arts Commission, which will consider approval at a public meeting on June 11. Approved recommendations then will go to City Council, which will vote in September on arts agency funding as part of the overall City budget.

As this is the second year of a three-year funding cycle, with funding levels determined in the 2019 budget, agency funding recommendations were mostly formulaic, according to Debbie Racca-Sittre, Department of Arts and Culture executive director.

And since meetings and consultations with arts agencies are open, “there’s really not any surprises here,” Racca-Sittre said.

The Department of Arts and Culture’s $7,038,575 budget for arts agency funding is derived from HOT funds, which are collected as taxes on hotels, motels, short term rentals, and bed and breakfasts in San Antonio. A total of 15% of HOT funds are put towards the department for arts funding, which distributes the money annually through an application and review process. Nine percent goes toward arts agency funding, and the final 6% goes to the department itself for staff cost-of-living pay increases and other initiatives.

If approved, a total of 48 nonprofit arts-focused organizations will receive funding for 2020, an increase from 43 groups last year. One new agency, the San Antonio Art League, which received funding for the first time in 2019, will receive a 200% increase from its previous year’s funding, from $5,487 to $10,973. Almost all other organizations were capped at a 25 percent change in annual funding from the previous year, to prevent shocks to their budgetary operations, Racca-Sittre said.

The exception from that cap was American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AITSCM), which saw a 50 percent increase from last year, from $77,250 to $115,875. That recommended increase is a direct result of City’s new Equity Lens budgeting and the Department’s new Cul-TÚ-Art Plan which prioritizes smaller organizations over larger nonprofits.

Small is defined as having a total operating budget under $1 million, while mid-size organizations have budgets between $1 million and $3 million, and larger organizations are more than $3 million annually.

Most smaller organizations received increases between five percent for Dreams Fulfilled Through Music, or $927 of its $18,427 total operating budget, to 25 percent for Woodlawn Theater, or $28,125 more than its 2019 operating budget of $112,500.

Mid-sized and larger organizations received no increases for 2020, holding steady at 100% of the previous year’s funding, with the exception of the San Antonio Symphony, which received an expected $77,384 cut from its 2019 funding level. That reduction helps reserve more funding for the smaller arts organizations that have historically received less than their larger counterparts.

Two other nonprofits, both of which run festivals, also experienced reductions: Cactus Pear Music Festival was reduced from $48,000 in 2019 to $39,614 this year, and Luminaria, which will receive $196,875, or $65,625 less than last year’s total.

The new Culturally Specific category, introduced in 2018, is the Department’s strategy to implement equity budgeting by increasing funding for groups “whose specific mission includes promoting, preserving and enhancing the identity of a specific Cultural Community,” including women, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Seven organizations — AITSCM, Centro Cultural Aztlan, Conjunto Heritage Taller, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, San Anto Cultural Arts, Inc., and Urban-15 Group — received increased funding under the category.

Tuesday’s Arts Commission meeting also will serve as a graduation ceremony for six organizations —Blue Star Contemporary, Dreams Fulfilled Through Music, Inspire Community Fine Art Center, Network For Young Artists, San Antonio Art League, and San Antonio Metro Ballet — that have completed the new Capacity Building Program, a six-month series of organizational mentorship workshops with consultant Kathryn Martin, an expert on nonprofit management. 

During the Citizens to be Heard period of the committee’s Thursday meeting, Lisa Cortez Walden, director of Inspire Community Fine Art Center, thanked the Arts Commission and Department for instituting the mentorship program.

“We, with your help, have been able to ask ourselves some hard questions,” Walden said. The program “really made us think about our programming and how we want to make it more accessible,” she said. “We’re happy with the City helping us understand where we’re most needed.”

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...