Voicing dissent in a city like Dallas—where arts patronage circles are tight-knit and sources of funding scarce—carries political risk for an artist. But David Lozano, the executive artistic director of the much-acclaimed, Chicano-focused Cara Mía Theatre, could no longer keep silent. Not as he watched the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s request for $15 million from the city to deal with its longstanding debt move forward over the summer. Lozano (who co-wrote Cara Mía’s latest production, the holiday-themed Nuestra Pastorela) hastily helped organize a group called Art Equity Now, rallied 40 members of the arts community to show up to a budget meeting at City Hall, and drew another 150 people to a rally at City Hall Plaza.
“One of the big pitfalls of arts planning in Dallas is that it usually takes place without the artists around, and that’s a big problem.”
Lozano’s problem wasn’t with the AT&T Performing Arts Center, per se, but with a mentality. Why is it that most arts organizations in Dallas are just scraping by, perpetually underfunded, paying near-poverty wages to staff, but when the Arts District needs a debt bailout, the city somehow finds $15 million in the municipal couch cushions?
“You are looking at $15 million over 10 years,” Lozano says. “That’s even more funding that is not going to smaller groups. And then you have the communities that have no art at all. There are cultural deserts in this city.”
Lozano had another idea. If the city wanted to spend $1.5 million a year on art, why not instead use that money to fund multiple pop-up “arts districts” in different communities around the city, employing artists and commissioning arts groups? That investment, Lozano argues, would spark the kind of cultural renaissance that the Arts District can
“One of the big pitfalls of arts planning in Dallas is that it usually takes place without the artists around, and that’s a big problem,” he says.
With all the hubbub over the ATTPAC deal, city officials may have begun to listen.
“I think we’re at a point right now where this ATTPAC deal is going to be biz as usual, and I think that we have to live with it,” he says. “But I’m optimistic about the relationships that we have developed through this very difficult process. Council members loved the idea, and they approached the Office of Cultural Affairs about it and said, ‘How can we do this?’ Hopefully we can continue this dialogue and work toward cultural equity.”