This year’s legislative session was rife with disappointing laws, but one of the few silver linings arrived with the new state budget approved by lawmakers last week.
Texas legislators awarded a $25 million two-year budget for the Texas Commission on the Arts. The stage agency is responsible for issuing hundreds of art-related grants to the 40 cultural districts across Texas, including for museums, art galleries, and cultural projects.
“This session was a very favorable session for arts and culture,” Ann Graham, executive director of the non-partisan advocacy group Texans for the Arts, told the Texas Signal. “Art is part of the economy of a community.”
The new funding— if approved by Gov. Greg Abbott— will go a long away, she said.
The new $25 million two-year budget represents a 150 percent increase from the previous session, which saw $10 million for the agency over two years.
Texans for the Arts pioneered the legislative strategy that led, its website noted, “to the largest single increase and the largest total budget for the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) in the state agency’s history.”
Another win besides the budget was the fact that nobody tried to tear apart the Texas Commission on the Arts.
“Nobody proposed eliminating the agency this year,” Graham said. “Last session there was a bill to try to eliminate the agency. We didn’t see stuff like that this session.”
To get lawmakers onboard with the proposed budget increase, Graham said Texans for the Arts had to prove to legislators that the arts has a real impact on the economic vitality of their communities.
She cited a 2017 study by the Texas Cultural Trust that found the arts generates $5.5 billion each year for the state’s economy.
That same study, funded by the Houston Endowment, also found that the arts contributes $343.7 million in state sales tax revenue annually and employs 800,000 Texans.
The funding boost to the state’s art agency is part of Texas’ $250.7 billion two-year budget approved by lawmakers over the weekend.