When Terry Loftis looks back at the arts community in 2020, three words come to mind: inspiring, endurance and optimism. Loftis, the President and Executive Director of The Arts Community Alliance (TACA), announced $200,500 in grants to 30 Dallas arts organizations persevering through the coronavirus pandemic.
2020 is Loftis’ first calendar year to serve as TACA’s president and executive director. When he officially took over the job in late 2019, his goals included making TACA relevant, putting the arts advocacy group in a position of leadership for the arts community and cultivating art.
The pandemic accelerated those goals. “COVID comes along and just says, ‘Everything that you have planned and everything you didn’t have planned is now in play. Ready, set, go!’” Loftis said. “We’ve been running a gauntlet, but the upside to that is a lot of the long-term objectives I had set for TACA, we’ve already met.”
The grants announced at the end of November are a part of the TACA Resilience Initiative. The initiative is made possible through gifts from Bank of America, Communities Foundation of Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth Area Lexus Dealers, The Donna Wilhelm Family Fund, The Eugene McDermott Foundation, The Moody Foundation and other generous donors.
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The support for this funding effort shows the philanthropic community recognizes how much the pandemic has impacted the arts industry. Loftis notes individuals and foundations, whether they have a history of supporting the arts or not, have approached TACA.
“I have been surprised at the number of individual donors and foundations who, because of COVID, have said, ‘We know arts organizations need support so we’re going to support you and know based on TACA’s history and ability to grant funds in an equitable and fair way, we’ll see more bang for the buck, and you will be good stewards of the money,’” Loftis said.
The arts organization who received these grants are American Baroque Opera Company, Bishop Arts Theatre Center, Bruce Wood Dance, Cara Mia Theater Co., Chamberlain Ballet, Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas, Cry Havoc Theater Company, Dallas Bach Society, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas Children’s Theater, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Fine Arts Chamber Players, Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra, IMPRINT Theatreworks, Junior Players, Kitchen Dog Theater Company, Lone Star Wind Orchestra, Lumedia Musicworks, Nasher Sculpture Center, Shakespeare Dallas, Soul Rep Theatre Company, Teatro Dallas, Texas Wind Music Outreach, TITAS/Dance Unbound, Turtle Creek Chorale, Undermain Theatre, USA Film Festival, Verdigris Ensemble and WaterTower Theatre.
The grants reflect an evolution of what the arts industry needs during this crisis. At the beginning of the pandemic, arts organizations tried to weather the storm, hoping to close or postpone events for a few weeks or a couple of months. Initially, TACA responded by establishing an Emergency Relief Fund, financially supporting the industry will thousands of dollars in grants for operations while the organizations remained closed.
As the reality of the pandemic set in, arts organizations pivoted to learning how to produce art and serve the community despite necessary coronavirus restrictions. The development forced TACA to re-evaluate how to support the industry.
TACA established Resiliency Workshops to address ongoing issues directly impacting the arts community. In July, TACA hosted an online workshop, The Doctor Is In: Medical Advice on Re-opening the Arts, a conversation with Dr. Robert Haley of UT Southwestern. Dr. Haley offered ideas on how arts organizations could host live performances safely. More arts institutions have shifted to online programming, reaching audiences and donors beyond North Texas.
TACA recognized it needed to transform its grant-making process. In addition to November’s grants, TACA will distributed two more grant cycles in February and June. “We will probably not go back to an annual distribution. Even after COVID, TACA will at a minimum go to a two-cycle distribution,” Loftis said. “They need money, and they need it more frequently. They are making use better use of the funds around programming and they are making smart decisions around their artists and patrons and being flexible. I think virtual programming is here to stay.”
The Resiliency Initiative also includes the Pop-Up Grants program. These small, unrestricted disbursements are awarded to organizations demonstrating quality limited programming, exceptional creativity, and innovation. The merit-based awards are intended to raise the visibility of artistic work being created during the pandemic. December Pop-Up Grant recipients are Bruce Wood Dance, Cara Mia Theatre Co, Dallas Theater Center, Lumedia Musicworks and Turtle Creek Chorale.
Since March, TACA has supported Dallas’ cultural sector with $1.2 million in grants. As TACA navigates the pandemic alongside the arts community, Loftis is gratified to see what TACA and a resilient arts industry has accomplished. “I am most proud that TACA as an institution not only survived but thrived and has truly become a beacon of light the local grant-making community to the arts,” Loftis said. “This new energy of creativity and collaboration is what I’m excited and hopeful about because I think it’s going to make the cultural arts in Dallas stronger.”
Learn more: https://taca-arts.org/