The Dallas Morning News
Foundation offers $12M to ATTPAC
Moody gift would go toward $27M that performing arts center needs to raise to pay off its capital debt
The Galveston-based Moody Foundation has offered to give the financially troubled AT&T Performing Arts Center $12 million toward the $27 million it needs to raise to pay off its capital debt, which at one point was $151 million. But there’s much more. The foundation has offered to award an additional $10 million in the form of “flexible grants” to “small and emerging” arts groups in Dallas, many of which were outspokenly critical of the $15 million the City Council has agreed to pay toward ATTPAC’s debt over a decade.
When it comes to the last part, however, a
conditional request is part of the deal: The foundation wants Dallas City Performance Hall to be renamed Moody Performance Hall, not as a naming-rights mandate, but in recognition of the gift.
The name change would require approval by the city. Moody officials were not available for interviews on Sunday, deferring instead to a statement released exclusively to The Dallas Morning News.
“Dallas has one of the most diverse, thriving and vibrant arts communities in the nation,” Frances Moody-Dahlberg, the chairman and executive director of the Moody Foundation, said in the statement.
“With these gifts, the Moody Foundation is pleased to support its growth and the entire ecosystem of the arts community — from the smallest arts organizations creating new works with local artists, to the AT&T Performing Arts Center, which provides performance spaces for some of the city’s largest performing institutions as well as productions from around the world,” the statement said.
The mission of the $10 million, Moody-Dahlberg said, “is to support the robust work of these small and growing groups. We felt this would be a very good fit.”
Rawlings on board
Mayor Mike Rawlings applauded the deal, saying in a statement that it’s “so much more than the renaming of one of our great arts facilities. Thanks to the Moody Foundation endowment, small arts organizations throughout the city will know there is some level of funding regardless of our city budget situation. For an institution with the stature of the Moody Foundation to recognize both the need and potential, and then find a way to fulfill it with this endowment, is remarkable.”
Jennifer Scripps, who last May became director of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, echoed the mayor, saying: “We were so surprised. It was amazing to know that the City Performance Hall had a potential named gift and that this endowment is going to support some of the groups that use the hall.”
Even better, she said, it will “support groups that maybe are still too small and too young in their artistic journey, but there’s still a chance for them to get support from the Moody Fund for the Arts.”
Scripps said the gift is up for further discussion at a special briefing of the city’s Cultural Affairs Commission on Thursday. If the name change is approved by the City Council, any corresponding signage will be paid for by ATTPAC.
Joanna St. Angelo, executive director of the Sammons Center for the Arts, which she describes as “a performing-arts incubator and arts center” for small to midsize arts groups, also gave a thumbs up.
“We have long hoped to find a way to make the City Performance Hall more affordable for the small and midsize groups that it was built for, so if this accomplishes that, I think that’s a great thing,” St. Angelo said Sunday. “Along with that, if we can find additional funding to look at getting arts in all parts of the city, and addressing the cultural equity issues, then I think that’s a great thing.”
Given that the City Council will have to approve the name change of Dallas City Performance Hall, St. Angelo was asked if that might present a potential hiccup to the plan.
“I can’t imagine why this would be a bad thing,” St. Angelo said. “It’s an asset that could be leveraged to provide support for the arts at a time when we really, really need it, especially for our small groups.”
Funding cuts concerns
Teresa Coleman Wash, executive artistic director of the Bishop Arts Theatre Center, which she describes as a “multicultural, multidisciplinary” company, said she was “delighted” to have a chance at such funding.
“For organizations like ours that don’t receive TACA funding, it could be beneficial, really,” said Wash, referring to The Arts Community Alliance, which provides funding for arts groups in the Dallas area. Wash said she had applied for TACA funding at least six times but has never been accepted.
Wash said the Bishop Arts Theatre Center receives 76 percent of its revenue through ticket sales. Of the remainder, she said, about 70 percent comes from the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs. But who knows what the future will bring?
“I am also concerned,” she said, “that the [city’s] arts funding budget is going to be adversely affected” by the fiscal crisis surrounding the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System “and that whole debacle. So we need this funding.”
Another potential concern, Wash said, is President Donald Trump’s administration cutting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, which she receives through the Texas Commission on the Arts. Her Oak Cliff-based center provides a jazz series, a speaker series, a theater series and year-round educational programming in the arts.
The play The Face of Emmett Till, about the brutal murder of a 14-yearold African-American boy in Mississippi in 1955, opens at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center on April 18.
A proposal compiled by ATTPAC and the Office of Cultural Affairs outlines the nuts and bolts of how the Moody money might be applied: The $10 million endowment, to be paid out in annual installments, is designed to provide money that “allows for the nurturing and cultural advancement of these groups, as well as sustaining the mission of the Dallas City Performance Hall to provide a stage in the Dallas Arts District for diverse, innovative offerings.”
The Moody name can be found on Moody Gardens in Galveston, the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas and Moody Coliseum, the basketball arena at Southern Methodist University that opened in 1956.
How grants would work
The language provided by ATTPAC and the Office of Cultural Affairs offered a detailed breakdown about how the $10 million to small arts groups would be applied:
“MFA Grants may only be awarded to small nonprofit arts groups with annual operating budgets of less than $1 million that are current or previous fiscal year recipients of City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs funding.” The payout would work this way:
The $10 million will be “fulfilled” by the Moody Foundation at $1 million a year over a decade.
“Granting capacity” will be $100,000 during the first year, $125,000 during the second year, $150,000 during the third year and “subsequent years of growing continuing until the endowment is fully vested.”
“When fully vested,” the proposal notes, “the fund has the capacity to provide the Dallas arts community with $400,000 a year in grants.”
Further, the proposal notes, “no grant will exceed $25,000.”
When it comes to the other part of Moody’s offering, the $12 million being offered to ATTPAC will help whittle down what started as a capital debt of $151 million.
From its own savings, ATTPAC officials say they have paid $56 million of that amount; its lenders have forgiven $45 million; and $8 million is being paid out in “outstanding pledges,” leaving $42 million. The city agreed to participate in 2016 in a plan whereby $15 million of the debt would be retired in annual contributions of $1.5 million a year for 10 years.