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Creative Waco is asking local governments for $315,000 a year to help fund a cultural district in downtown Waco and along Elm Avenue that would be eligible for recognition grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts for marketing and tourism.

Staff photo— Rod Aydelotte

Creative Waco made its pitch to city leaders Tuesday to become the main conduit for publicly funded arts organizations and to oversee a proposed downtown cultural district.

Fiona Bond, the nonprofit group’s director, asked Waco City Council’s budget and audit committee for $300,000 that Creative Waco could “regrant” to existing arts organizations as well as new “high-impact” events and projects. That figure would include the $100,000 the city now distributes among Waco Symphony, Waco Civic Theatre, Art Center Waco and the Cultural Arts Festival.

Creative Waco then would be in a position to augment the city’s contribution with grants from private foundations and state and federal arts agencies, Bond said.

“That brings online a raft of additional funding that Waco has not been receiving,” she said.

Creative Waco would assemble a volunteer panel representing arts leaders and economic development and city officials that could review funding proposals for innovative arts projects that could make Waco a more vibrant place to live in or visit, she said.

Bond also asked for $260,000 a year to help fund a cultural district in downtown and along Elm Avenue that would be eligible for recognition grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts for marketing and tourism. The state commission offers the grant next year but not again until 2019, so Creative Waco is asking the council to designate the district at the April 19 meeting.

“If we’re going to do it, we should do it now to leverage those additional funds,” Councilman John Kinnaird said.

Texas has 29 cultural districts, which are eligible for a total of $5 million.

$315,000 from government

The Waco cultural district would seek $260,000 from the city and $55,000 from McLennan County, for a total local government contribution of $315,000. That would provide for administration and marketing of the cultural district as well as events such as a weekly arts event or a downtown festival.

The city of Waco’s current budget earmarks $100,000 for a new downtown event, and that money could be repurposed for the cultural district.

City Manager Dale Fisseler said a vibrant fine arts scene is a “missing piece” when Waco officials try to recruit new businesses to town, and he thinks both the cultural district and the enhanced arts funding could help.

“It would be helpful to have an organization to make a recommendation about what we should be funding,” Fisseler said.

Five of the six council members were at the committee meeting Tuesday, and several voiced enthusiasm for Creative Waco’s proposals.

“Thanks for working so hard to find out how our money could go further,” Councilman Dillon Meek said.

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