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Local Arts Council Sharing Keys To Success With Capitol Hill

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – The head of the Arts Council of Fort Worth is in Washington D.C. tonight to share a survival story.

The arts community in Fort Worth managed to avoid deep city budget cuts, which were threatening everything from the opera to children’s programs.  Patrons of the arts in Fort Worth and Tarrant County found a way to create harmony with a cash-strapped city government.

Twelve months ago, programs like the symphony were facing a 25-percent budget cut and that was on the heels of prior year cutbacks.  They were fighting for survival.

“We were in store for yet another round of funding cuts,” said Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra President Amy Adkins. “And over the last two budget cuts it resulted in a loss of around $200,000 in funding for the Fort Worth Symphony.”

“We were having a collapse at the very elite part of our arts organization,” explained Arts Council President Jody Ulich.  “That was just going to topple everything.”

The Arts Council commissioned a study which showed, based on 2010 numbers, the arts have an $84 million impact on the economy every year.  The economic study also showed 2.7 million people attended arts events in Fort Worth in 2010. More than 600,000 of those people were from outside Tarrant County.

Click here to check out a summary of the Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts for Tarrant County.

Suddenly, after a council appointed committee saw the study, the city did an about-face.  The arts had its city funding doubled.

“I mean, we’re all proud of what we do and how we contribute, but to see it in actual numbers it gives us a lot of ammunition when we go out there seeking funding in the public,” Adkins said.

Now, other national non-profit groups have asked the president of The Arts Council to the nation’s capitol. They hope Fort Worth’s story will convince congressional leaders to spare cuts in arts funding and charitable tax exemptions.

“We all know we want to fund the arts because they make better communities and they’re great for the culture, and arts and education is great,” Ulich said.  “But for politicians, it’s really about economic return. Its taxpayer money!”

Now other arts programs are hoping the same message rings as true in Washington as it did in Fort Worth.

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