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The State of the Arts in Fort Worth

Fort Worth bills itself as the city of cowboys and culture. But the symphony orchestra's recent strike over pay cuts raised questions about the state of the arts in Fort Worth.

Symphony administrators said they weren't getting enough private donations.

Then on Monday, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art announced a record $20 million endowment from the Walton Family Foundation. So where does funding for Fort Worth arts stand? Is it feast or famine?

No one knows the challenges of arts funding better than the Arts Council of Fort Worth, which distributes grants to the city's various museums and cultural organizations, all of which need constant upkeep.

"It takes a lot of work to keep the arts moving," said Karen Wiley, president of the Arts Council of Fort Worth.

Wiley watched the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra's three-month strike with concern. She chalks it up to the ebbs and flows of any organization but says there's a lesson there that we can't take the arts for granted.

"Continue to support them, continue to let them know you're here and how valued it is," Wiley said.

Wiley says Fort Worth is unique in how much it does care about the arts overall, with powerhouse museums setting an example for young emerging artists to strive for.

"People love the arts here. It is a part of the fabric," Wiley said.

But even the 60-year-old building in which the Arts Council is housed needs repairs. Along with the Arts Council, the Fort Worth Community Arts Center houses nine galleries and two theaters.

Every piece of maintenance the building needs is a reminder of the work to do all over the city – work it will take a whole city to accomplish.

"A lot of times people don't realize how easy it is to lose something that's so valued," said Wiley.

Clearly private funding is critical, but what about the city?

This year, Fort Worth's city council budgeted more than $1.12 million to support local arts organizations, both large and small. That's twice what the city was providing at the lowest funding mark in 2013.

The city will spend another $1.44 million on public art this year and $200,000 to fund the Community Arts Center.

That funding all comes from the city's general fund, so there's a lot of competition for those dollars. But the city started an arts funding task force to advocate for cultural spending needs.

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