Cultural Shifts

The basic mechanism for funding artists will look the same, but the city of Austin's cultural contracts program will undergo some significant changes in structure

The overall mechanism by which the city funds artists and cultural organizations will look much like it has in the past. The process of applications, reviews panels, and funding recommendations that are ultimately approved by City Council is similar to what it was. But within the familiar mechanism are some significant changes in structure.

The new program proposes to shift from organizing applicants strictly by discipline (theatre, dance, music, et al.) to organizing them by size and purpose as well as discipline. Applicants would be able to seek:

  • Institutional Support – provides operational support for larger cultural organizations (requests up to $200,000)

  • Project Support – provides support for specific arts projects (requests up to $25,000 for individual artists and $50,000 for organizations)

  • Community Initiatives – provides support for specific arts projects of a smaller nature (requests up to $10,000)

  • Special Opportunities – provides funding for training and professional development for artists and organizations (requests up to $1,000)

    Large and medium-sized organizations will have to choose between applying for Institutional Support and Project Support; they will not be eligible to apply for Community Initiatives or Special Opportunities.

    Peer review panels will shift from all local panelists to a mix of panelists from the city, the region, and around the country. Panelists will score applications based on a set of established evaluation criteria that apply across all disciplines (e.g., Project Support and Community Initiatives will be scored in four areas: artistic/cultural merit; audience development and visitor promotion; economic, cultural, and social impact; and administrative capability). Panelists will no longer make direct funding recommendations; funding will be determined using mathematical formulas based on policies or priorities developed by the Arts Commission, the amount of available funding, and the score of the applicant. Panelists may not serve more than two consecutive two-year terms on the same panel. They will receive a stipend for their services.

    A Cultural Arts Advisory Board has been recommended to eventually replace the Arts Commission and oversee the funding process, as well as enact policy related to city cultural programs. Exactly how this body will differ from the current commission in makeup or purpose is still being determined. The members will continue to be appointed by the city council. The board will forward the funding recommendations to city council.

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