Arts orgs in City-owned facilities are peerless

Hello, dear noontime surfers (yes, we look at our traffic stats and we know your web habits. Thanks for squeezing us in between and YouTube). Bet you're wondering what's going on at Council today, besides progress toward a synchronized citywide stoplight system (which probably ruins the Current's plans to lobby for short art films to be shown at, i.e., the interminable Woodlawn/I 10 West intersection).

Those of you who follow arts funding already know that former ARTS San Antonio Executive Director Frank Villani has joined the Office of Cultural Affairs, where he'll oversee the funding process in which he participated for more than 10 years. But just as he's stepping into those hot shoes, the game's changing a bit. Today council votes on changes it requested to the arts funding process for the 8 arts organizations that are housed in City-owned facilities (list below). While these groups will still have to meet the same criteria as other applicants for funds from the HOT tax -- plus one extra criteria that measures their care and feeding of said facility -- they'll no longer go before a community peer panel for evaluation. Instead the quality of their programming, community outreach, PR, etc. will be evaluated by a panel of City staff from various departments such as Downtown Operations and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and an outside consultant with expertise in cultural programming.

"The idea is that you have several `City` departments that have relationships with the facilities," said OCA Director Felix Padron, and they can better evaluate the organizations' performance and needs. Padron says he thinks municipal staff will bring the same level of examination that has made the peer panels -- and by extension the Cultural Arts Board -- the object of ire in the past. "I think that level of discussion will take place," he said.

This change to the funding process follows from the 2006 increase in HOT allotment to 15 percent, and a 2007 agreement to dedicate 4.25 percent of those monies to the City-owned facility tenants.

The COFA agencies are:

• Centro Cultural Aztlan, which occupies the updated Deco Building on Fredericksburg Road

• Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center

• San Pedro Playhouse

• Symphony Society of San Antonio

• The Alameda National Center for Latino Arts and Culture

• The Magik Children's Theatre

• The Witte Museum

• The Carver Community Cultural Center, which is a division of the Department of Community Initiatives.

The proposal before council notes that conflicts of interest would be avoided, i.e., in the case of Community Initiatives and the Carver.

Once Council addresses these changes to the funding process, OCA and the CAB will finalize the application process for the 2009-10 funding cycle, with applications available the first part of April.


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