Six Dallas Artistic Enterprises Receive Support for Projects Focused on Community Development

SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ Ignite/Arts Dallas initiative, in partnership with San Francisco-based YBCA (Yerba Buena Center for the Arts) and its CultureBank initiative, and Dallas’ TACA – The Arts Community Alliance, announced that six artistic enterprises with the potential to create lasting change in the Dallas community have been selected to participate in a “co-learning” process and to receive $5,000 each for project development over the next six months.

The artistic enterprises include “Artcycle TX,” led by VET, an artist who creates art out of found objects and discarded, recycled materials; “Break Bread, Break Borders,” led by Jin-Ya Huang, a catering business of refugee and immigrant women who share both food and stories of their culture with diners; Teatro Dallas’ new “Co-Lab/Theater for Healing in West Dallas,” led by Sara Cardona; Ash Studios’ “Outdoor Painting Program,” led by Fred Villanueva, near Fair Park; the “Semillitas Literary Initiative,” led by Ofelia Faz-Garza, which brings pop-up reading nooks and free books to community events; and “Recipe Oak Cliff,” under the leadership of Tisha Crear, which will produce a new series of community dinners introducing healthy food and discourse on what makes a healthy community.

“The goal of Ignite/Arts Dallas is to integrate artistic practices with community engagement and to work with students and residents of Dallas to envision more just and vibrant communities,” said Clyde Valentín, director of Ignite/Arts Dallas. “All six grant recipients do that through visual art, social practice, food, performance and entrepreneurship.”

One of YBCA and CultureBank’s goals is to foster the idea that artists are social entrepreneurs and early investors in their own communities, people who can bring meaningful change to their neighborhoods. “To ensure the success of this project, we are committed to supporting the artists throughout the process,” said CultureBank co-founder Penelope Douglas. “This isn’t a situation where they receive money, go away, then come back six months later with a report. This is an ongoing relationship where our efforts will focus on setting the artists up to be successful in achieving impact.”

The investment is not just monetary, according to Valentín. “We will be working closely with the recipients over the next six months,” he said. “The Ignite/Arts Dallas, CultureBank and TACA team will hold regular group meetings with the artists. Participants will share skills with each other and hear from guest experts on such topics as accounting and development of long-term plans.”

Valentín said the initial grants are “demonstration investments,” the first part of a larger initiative. “Our hope is to move into the second phase of this pilot program in 2020 by choosing several projects – which could be from this group, or others – for more substantial, longer-term funding and development.”

The funds for the initial six enterprises are provided by Ignite/Arts Dallas as part of its 2018 Meadows Prize, which it awarded last May to CultureBank to establish a unique investment model in Dallas to support artistic projects that benefit the community. Working with Valentín and local collaborators such as TACA, CultureBank founding partners Penelope Douglas and Deborah Cullinan have been meeting with area foundations, venture capitalists and philanthropists to establish the new investment model while also looking at potential artists’ enterprises to support.

The goal is to establish an arts-focused social impact fund in Dallas that is self-sustaining and will grow over time. In addition to grants, the fund will eventually provide a variety of loans and investments, such as low-interest or no-interest loans; taking an equity position in an arts organization’s business or assets; providing free business planning assistance; and more.

“A key aspect of TACA’s most recent strategic plan is to invest in work that sits at the intersection of art and social impact,” said TACA’s Carlson President & Executive Director Wolford McCue. “We are extraordinarily proud to partner with Ignite/Arts Dallas and CultureBank on this innovative new initiative that invests in artistic work that can spur lasting change in our community.”

The selection process for the demonstration investments began in January. Recipients of previous grants from TACA and from the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Vitality Program were invited to a series of meetings in different sections of the city – the Oak Cliff Cultural Center, South Dallas Cultural Center, Cedars Union and One Arts Plaza. Some 75 individual artists and arts organizations attended, and all were invited to apply for the six-month pilot demonstration. Twenty-four applications were received and evaluated by the team from Ignite/Arts Dallas, TACA and CultureBank, and six were chosen.

“This is a dynamic, diverse group of artists who invest in their communities, and we’re excited about the ideas they have,” said Valentín of the six inaugural recipients. “We want to help them not only with funding, but with non-monetary resources as well – expanded networks, technical assistance, project documentation, etc. Our hope is that by the end of the six months, they will all have a clear idea of what they want to achieve in the longer term, and potential paths to get there. For our part, we’ll be able to apply what we’ve learned to the second phase of the pilot in 2020.”