Too important to fail: Four Dallas theatres form BIPOC Arts Coalition

Merle McGee and Fiona Kanagasingam, founders of the BIPOC Arts Coalition


Special to The Dallas Examiner


“Since our inceptions, BIPOC arts organizations and artists have provided grassroots support to our communities, distinguishing ourselves from the arts groups simply asking for relief funds to keep producing. BIPOC artists provide services that support public safety, health, mental health, youth development, academics, education, cultural competency and community building. Simply stated: We are too important to fail.” stated a representative of the The Black, Indigenous and People of Color Arts Coalition.

Founded by the Soul Rep Theatre, Bishop Arts Theatre Center, Cara Mía Theatre and Teatro Dallas, the BIPOC seeks to provide a vision and advocacy platform for anti-racism, equitable funding and structural support for culturally specific artists and performance groups in Dallas.

On July 13, the arts coalition announced its efforts to support BIPOC communities that have been historically underserved and under-resourced. These same communities have recently been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, in terms of both community health and economic impact.

“Although the entire arts ecosystem has experienced losses during COVID-19, BIPOC arts groups and artists have historically suffered from underfunding, like the communities we represent. Our BIPOC arts organizations and artists therefore run the risk of continued underfunding at this time. Nevertheless, BIPOC arts organizations and artists are the most prepared to support communities most affected by COVID-19 and systemic racism,” a representative stated.

“In order to sustain our work with the communities we serve, the BIPOC Arts Coalition recommends the following actions to support the work of BIPOC artists and arts organizations.”

BIPOC recommendations regarding and Dallas officials and the city:

  • For the city of Dallas’ Fiscal Year 2020-2021, fully fund the neighborhood Dallas Cultural Centers serving BIPOC communities.
  • Maintain FY 2019-2020 funding levels of BIPOC arts organizations into FY 2020-2021 in the cultural organization’ program.
  • Due to the overwhelming response to a recent city of Dallas grant program for ALAANA or BIPOC artists, increase FY 2020-2021 funding levels for neighborhood arts programs from FY 2019-2020 in order to increase service to BIPOC communities in need and support the growing number of BIPOC working artists seeking City support. – These programs include Pop-up cultural centers, Creation Activation Preservation and ArtsActivate among other new initiatives. Funding and contracts should go primarily to BIPOC-led organizations and artists.
  • Funding support for facilities for BIPOC arts organizations that own or manage buildings.

BIPOC recommendations regarding the philanthropic community:

  • Rectify historic underfunding of BIPOC artists and arts organizations
  • Provide multi-year funding and investment into endowments of BIPOC arts organizations.
  • Provide funding support for BIPOC arts organizations that own or manage buildings.
  • Provide funding support for Health Insurance for BIPOC individual artists and staff at BIPOC arts organization

“Research has shown that national distribution of arts funding flows disproportionately to large institutions, which puts culturally specific organizations at a disadvantage. Culturally specific organizations are affected by the same structural racism and inequities that affect the people and communities they serve,” said Zannie Voss, Director of SMU DataArts and Jill Robinson, CEO of TRG Arts in the In It for the Long Haul study.


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