The Cultural Contracts Timeline
All interested artists and organizations descend upon the Dougherty Arts Center for a briefing by Cultural Contracts staff about what to expect in the coming funding season.
February: Proposal Preparation Workshops; Cultural Contracts Staff Review of Proposals
March 15: Deadline for Final Proposals
Either the proposal is in the hands of Cultural Contracts staff by 5pm or it waits 'til next year.
April: Proposals Handed to Advisory Panelists
During this period, panelists may pay site visits to artists and organizations. Most panelists spend the year checking out the work of artists in their respective disciplines in order to make educated assessments of the applicants. But April is the cruelest month for panelists, who are besieged with requests to see the art before they are "sequestered" for panel deliberations.
May: Panel Review and Allocation Sessions
If April is mean to panelists, May is wicked to artists. First, they must make what is frequently a nerve-wracking presentation to the panel overseeing their discipline. The format is regimented, the questions probing, the tension high. Next, they must endure the allocation session, at which the panel decides how much money it will recommend be given to the artists who applied in its discipline. It is this second meeting -- one that the public may attend but may not speak -- where most of the more contentious incidents occur.
June: Arts Commission Work Session, Final Allocation Recommendations
The ball passes into the commissioners' court, and they review the panels' recommendations in a closed-door session. This is followed by a public meeting -- always well attended by artists who wish to influence a change in their funding and by panelists keen to defend their allocations. A long meeting, this, full of sound and fury.
A panel consisting of Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) board members, arts commissioners, and an at-large member review appeals by applicants who wish to protest their allocation or some part of the funding process. It should be noted that PARD is the department which oversees the whole Cultural Contracts process. A successful appeal does not always result in an increase in funding.
August: City Council Staff Panel Sessions
By this point, many arts groups have attempted to change the level of funding allocated by the panel and/or the Arts Commission by lobbying the City Council through meetings with council staff. An informal panel of interested staffers, led in recent years by Paul Saldaña of Councilmember Garcia's office, convenes in late summer to listen to these artists and groups. If money is available, some may see an increase via the council.
September: City Council Budget Approval
At long last, City Council approves the city budget for the coming fiscal year, including arts funding allocations to Cultural Contract applicants.
October: New Funding Begins
The new fiscal year and the start of funding for successful applicants, as well as the start of the paper trail of revised budgets and other supporting documentation that accompanies the money. Arts groups that think they have hit the jackpot are quickly brought down to earth when they realize they must have insurance (to keep the city safe from lawsuits, for example), they cannot ask for the whole kit and kaboodle up front, or find that their money isn't just sitting in a bank -- it takes weeks from an initial request until the check finally arrives from the city.
Note: A movement is afoot to shift the schedule for fiscal year 2000-01. Applications would be due in January in order to better orchestrate this nine-month process. The rules may change, but the game remains the same! --R.P.