The Texas Cultural Trust Council announces a new set of honors for native and residents of the Lone Star State, the Texas Medal of the Arts Awards, and the recipients of the first awards.
Arts Honors for Our Own
So far, 2001 has been a big year for Texas on the political scene. Now, a state organization is trying to make it just as big a year for Texas on the cultural scene. The Texas Cultural Trust Council is instituting a new set of honors for natives and residents of the Lone Star State: the Texas Medal of the Arts Awards. The awards recognize "distinguished Texas artists and persons or organizations that have encouraged the development of the arts in Texas, through their personal achievements or unfailing support." They also help the council draw attention to the state of the arts of the state, so to speak, so as to persuade folks to contribute the financial support that will ensure that Texas will still have some distinguished artists in the generations to come. See, the council was created in 1995 specifically to raise money for the arts, money for an endowment to be administered by the state. The Texas Cultural Trust Fund, established in 1993, was the Texas Legislature's way around the hassle of having to find money for the arts in its usual budget. With a council to generate revenue from the private sector that could go into a "stable funding source," the Lege wouldn't have to keep scraping together that annoying few million of life support they allocate for the Texas Commission for the Arts -- and Texas might finally be able to climb out of the cellar where per capita state spending for the cultural arts is concerned. (Texas' piddlin' 20 cents per capita puts us behind not only every other state in the Union, but even behind Guam. Guam!) It might be a little easier to take some pride in the fact that ours was the first state to have a state-created and -operated arts endowment if our history in this area weren't so ... pathetic. And unfortunately, the TCTC's efforts to date have been well shy of spectacular. The endowment goal was $200 million. In eight years, it's raised $12 million. This, during eight years of unprecedented economic prosperity. Sigh.
That said, the TCTC may be picking up a little steam; last year, it scored a $1 million grant from San Antonio's SBC Communications Inc. And perhaps the awards will elevate the profile of the council and the fund. And even if they don't, they will be providing recognition for some very deserving artists and supporters of the arts.
This week, the TCTC announced the recipients of the inaugural group of honorees. Twelve individuals and a foundation will receive awards. They are:
Music: Willie Nelson
Film: Tommy Lee Jones
Dance: Debbie Allen
Literary Arts: Horton Foote
Visual Arts: John Biggers
Folk Arts: Santiago and Flaco Jimenez
Theatre: Neil Hess
Architecture Wayne Bell
Arts Education: Gilberto Zepeda Jr.
Arts Patronage: Jack Blanton
Institutional Giving: Meadows Foundation
Lifetime Achievement: Van Cliburn
Only one Austinite made this elite crew -- the eminently worthy Wayne Bell -- but then, Austin does get the honor of hosting the awards. The council will present the awards in a splashy ceremony at the Paramount Theatre on March 20.