Small Arts Groups Seek Dallas Funding After Big AT&T PAC Got Theirs

New list of cultural arts needs released

Smaller Dallas arts groups are hoping to get a piece of the pie in a 2017 bond referendum after watching the AT&T Performing Arts Center receive a $15 million City Hall pledge last month.

The AT&T PAC money will be paid in increments over 10 years to help reduce $151 million in outstanding construction debt for the Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theater.

"We were raising money, and the recession hit and the economic crisis hit us particularly hard," said Chris Heinbaugh, AT&T PAC vice president of external affairs.

A new $27.5 million list of other cultural arts needs released this week is mostly major maintenance but also $4 million of new construction at city facilities.

"Our hope is that the city will follow through with initiatives that will be equitable for all organizations, small, medium and large," said David Lozano, executive artistic director at the Cara Mia Theater.

The group produces bilingual theater at the Dallas Latino Cultural Center. Completion of a small performance space is part of $3.5 million included on the new request for the Latino Cultural Center.

"We have cultural desserts throughout the city. So that became the foundation for us questioning this $15 million debt relief," Lozano said.

Also on the list is $900,000 to repair water leaks and mortar damage at the Dallas Black Dance Theater office and practice building. The historic building was once an African American YMCA in the days of segregation.

"This building was noted as the icon of exclusion during the years of segregation and Dallas Black Theater has repurposed it," said Executive Director Zenetta Drew. "We want to be included in the bond program so we can get the repairs done timely and limit the amount of damage."

Also on the new list are major repairs to the Dallas Museum of Art, the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Majestic Theater.

Heinbaugh said the money earmarked for the AT&T PAC is money well spent.

"These are just tremendous cultural venues that are already bringing in millions of dollars a year in economic benefit, over $130 million this last year alone," Heinbaugh said. "There's a big cultural ecosystem and we need to make sure there's a good balance. This is an important part of that."

To meet their requests, the other groups will now have to compete for a place on a proposed 2017 capital improvement bond referendum with other expensive Dallas problems like bad streets and aging Fair Park buildings.

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