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Arts Artifacts 

News and notes from the San Antonio art scene

On March 10, City Council approved a new arts-funding process that will be implemented almost immediately, with applications available within the month, says Office of Cultural Affairs Director Felix Padrón. The new process is the result of a year of wrangling by the Cultural Arts Board and vociferous public comment. Significant changes include new cultural-equity criteria that require City staff and CAB to consider the unique value of “organizations that are deeply rooted in the community.”

Padrón says that criteria should counter the concerns of organizations such as the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center that new funding caps and matching-fund requirements will hurt Latino arts groups, which generally receive a smaller amount of private and national funding. “`The criteria` could possibly mean or result in additional dollars or a better score,” says Padrón.

Under the new guidelines, agencies with an operating budget greater than $2 million can receive no more than 10 percent of their funds from the City coffers; organizations with a budget between $800,000 and $2 million can receive no more than 20 percent of their budget; and groups with a budget between $50,000 and $800,000 are eligible for up to 30 percent. The matching-fund requirements and the amount of matching funds that can be in-kind have also been adjusted, but Padrón says the changes reflect the reality that the process needs to remain competitive and catalytic. “I don’t think public funding is for maintaining specific organizations,” says Padrón, adding, “Public funding should be viewed as seed money.”

For more on the subject, see Party Lines, page 7. If you’d like to try your hand at allocating City arts money, OCA is still taking applications for panelists. Interested parties should call: 222-2787.

Change is also afoot at the San Antonio Museum of Art, which is moving quickly to implement a $2 million Contemporary Art Curatorship endowment from Houston’s Brown Foundation. Director Marion Oettinger says the museum is looking for someone who can shepherd its Modern and post-Modern collection — which includes works by Abstract Expressionist pioneer Hans Hoffman, West Coast-style catalyst Richard Diebenkorn, and Post-Painterly Abstraction apostle Frank Stella, among others — as well as curate and grow its contemporary collection. While outreach to the city’s contemporary-art community through exhibitions and related events is one of the museum’s goals, Oettinger adds that he expects SAMA to be more adventurous in its exhibitions than its acquisitions: “We would like to have cutting-edge exhibits, but we would rather sort of think in terms of a permanent collection, and therefore a commitment to the storing and care of these materials. We’d like to go with artists who sort of have a strong record in the contemporary.”

The museum plans to begin interviewing candidates in April and hopes to have the new curator in place by late summer.

Elaine Wolff

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