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Cultural Funding Program Review Process

As an outgrowth of the Cultural Funding discussion that took place in Fall 2018 involving a record high number of successful cultural funding applications, flattening Hotel Occupancy Tax receipts, and growing need to examine program guidelines, values, and operations, CAD staff and the Arts Commission are committed to conducting a review of the current program to form recommendations to chart a path forward, in partnership with the community.

Two of the Arts Commission’s working groups (the Responsiveness Working Group and the Equity Working Group) had already been discussing related ideas, but as we, as arts producers, consumers and advocates, think about how to tackle this process with the greatest levels of inclusion, consistency, and clear understanding possible, it will be important to streamline and consolidate these discussions into one process where everyone has full access and voice.  This webpage is intended to provide access to opportunities for participation as the process evolves and to maintain transparency in communication.

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Consultant Scope

City staff has asked a consultant to help guide the community input process and program review.  The scope of the consultant’s work is as follows:

The consultant will guide review and evaluation of the City of Austin’s Cultural Funding Program, including examination of program history, operations, structure, peer panel and matrix processes, and participation; engage a broad and inclusive community of stakeholders in conversation about program experience, goals and priorities; and prepare a report on findings, with corresponding recommendations for future program structure and operation.  Ultimately, this exercise should help make changes to the program that better align with Austin Strategic Direction 2023 resulting in a higher degree of effectiveness in grant-making and also advance the Cultural Arts Division’s commitment to broadening and deepening access to resources and opportunities. 

The review process will take into consideration a variety of things, including (but not limited to):

    Any and all applicable law and policy ·         History of the Cultural Funding Program ·         The foundation and parameters of the funding review and allocation process (including application, peer process, funding matrix, staff and Arts Commission roles, etc.) ·         Alignment with the City’s Strategic Direction 2023 and Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan ·         The Arts Commission’s overall goals and pillars as well as specific guiding principles and goals for funding ·         The Cultural Arts Division’s mission and goals ·         Feedback from tourism partners, fiscal sponsors, contractors and stakeholders ·         Support of the City’s equity goals ·         Compatibility with Austin’s unique demographics, cultural landscape and ecosystem ·         Benchmarking with other cities’ programs/framing within local, state and national arts grant-making contexts ·         The relationship of cultural funding to building business capacity for the future

Consultant: MJR Partners

MJR Partners (led by principal, Margie Johnson Reese) is the consultant who will be providing this assistance.  Formed in 2010, MJR Partners provides professional arts management services and guidance to communities for planning, stabilizing and implementing inclusive public policy. They assist clients in stimulating strategic partnerships between the cultural sector and government agencies, foundations, corporations, and academic institutions to advance cultural understanding.  Reese has a 30-year portfolio as an arts management professional, whose experience involves serving as the leader of local arts agencies in Los Angeles, Dallas, and Wichita Falls, grant program officer for the Ford Foundation in their Office for West Africa, and professor at Goucher College in Towson, MD, teaching Cultural Policy in the Arts in the graduate Arts Administration Program.  Her team is composed of artists (current practitioners) as well as experienced facilitators of inclusive cultural and community dialogue.  More information about Margie and her team can be found here.

Process Overview and Timeline (subject to change)

The Cultural Funding Review Process will extend through early spring 2020 and will consist of the following key phases:

Flowchart: Phase 1 (June 2019 – September 2019):  Hold listening sessions to hear the views and values of the community through conversations with individuals and small and large groups ·         Phase 2 (September - October 2019):  Conclude Listening Sessions, Start Feedback Analysis – continue conversations with the community and begin to analyze feedback from those conversations to organize into more specific themes and directions to discuss further ·         Phase 3 (October – November 2019):  Facilitate conversation with community around themes and directions to refine or reshape the Cultural Funding Program to begin forming draft recommendations for program changes ·         Phase 4 (December 2019 – January 2020):  Draft recommendations for program changes, discussion with staff and Arts Commission Working Groups ·         Phase 5 (February – March 2020):  Community feedback and dialogue around draft recommendations for program changes, briefings with Council members, adoption by Arts Commission

Opportunities to Stay Involved:

The goal for this process is to be as inclusive as possible, with many opportunities to participate.  There will be a range of options for communication and participation, including one-on-one conversations and group conversations; opportunities to submit feedback at meetings, online or directly to staff or consultant; and to stay abreast of the process through the Cultural Arts Division newsletter, social media, this webpage, Arts Commission meetings, and at any time with Cultural Arts Division staff.  If you would like to host a community dialogue, please contact us.