With its stated mission of the development of community resources to support the arts and multi-cultural enrichment programs in Killeen, two programs have stood out to receive the most taxpayer funding from the Killeen Arts Commission.
If approved, Vive Les Arts, Killeen’s longtime nonprofit community theater, would receive more than $37,000 in taxpayer dollars after the Killeen City Council directed City Manger Kent Cagle to make a late change to the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget, adding $85,000 for arts spending before the budget was passed in September.
Different groups could apply for a chunk of money if they can show they benefit the city through the arts and tourism. The money is allocated through a complicated ballot system by the Killeen Arts Commission, with final approval expected to come this month from the City Council
Of the seven organizations to acquire a portion of the $85,000, Vive Les Arts was listed twice: $22,815 in funding for its main organization, and again for the Vive Les Arts Children’s Theater, which is set to receive more than $14,300.
The $22,815 in funding will help cover expenses of six VLA events that are scheduled now through Sept. 30, 2021. Vive Les Arts produces several plays every year.
If one of the events is canceled because of the coronavirus or another unforeseeable circumstance, the Vive Les Arts Societe can get the money back for that event and use it to improve another event or reschedule the event that was missed, according to the arts commission.
When the budget was introduced this summer, there was zero dollars in it for the arts — a stark change from previous years. Last year’s budget included about $250,000 for the arts. Arts funding comes from the city’s hotel occupancy tax revenue, which has decreased due to the impact of COVID-19.
The arts commission received $1,000 of the $85,000 to cover administrative expenses which is down from $2,000, the amount it normally takes.
Luvina Sabree runs Armed Forces Natural Hair and Health, or AFNHH, which sponsors three main events; the Armed Forces Natural Hair and Health Expo, which takes place three times a year with an upcoming event set for Nov. 1, the Veggie and Arts Fest and the Killeen Black Art and Film Fest, both of which take place once a year.
AFNHH is scheduled to receive $19,639 in KAC funding, the second most behind VLA. Each of the three individual projects under AFNHH would receive about $6,000 from those funds.
Sabree said KAC funding never covers 100% of the expenses to organize and the hold the events every year.
“We use it to help put the event together — marketing, advertising, etc.,” she said.
Sabree said the hair events charge $15 per person for admission, but admission is not charged at some of the events she organizes.
However, the funding is not yet a done deal. The council will have KAC funding in a workshop session on Tuesday, with official action scheduled for Oct. 13.
“Council does not have to approve the committee’s recommendations (they made changes last year),” Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said in an email.
John Miller, the Killeen Arts Commission chairman, spoke by telephone about the process by which the KAC, in conjunction with the City of Killeen, determines how the funding is allocated.
Each KAC members fills out a ballot, on which each program applying is granted a score.
“That way no one member can influence the process,” Miller said.
The grant application rating sheet is made up of a set of criteria, and can be described as ranging from artistic to economic: Does a program promote tourism and the convention industry? Does it have artistic merit, and related areas?
After the members complete their individual ballot, the ballots are submitted to the city, where staffers score and apply weight to them, and from there calculate how much money each particular applicant program should get.
“We don’t know what each individual commissioner has scored,” Miller said, adding that the ballots are given to the city in the interests of fairness and transparency.
Miller added that the ballot process took place before the KAC learned the funding would be 85,000.
With respect to the Armed Forces Natural Hair and Health, Miller described this event as “more than a hair show.”
“That brings both artists, as in visual artists and musical artists, to the show,” Miller said. “As I understand, it’s also a cultural event, promoting a lot of African culture as well.”
Miller stressed that no one event is more important than another, so they all start out the grant award process on an even playing field.
“Everyone got something,” he said.
Elizabeth Blackstone has long been involved with the arts in Killeen, but recently finished her term with the KAC. She expressed frustration that the commission had been defunded in the FY 2021 budget.
“That impacts more people in the community than that museum, which hasn’t even been built yet,” she said, in reference to the National Mounted Warfare Museum to be built near the Fort Hood main gate.
The city allocated $80,000 to the museum in the FY21 budget as part of a contractual agreement.
Shine provided an overview of the arts funding process at the city level.
“The arts commission (appointed body) ranks the applicants and recommends allocations based on rules established by city council,” Shine said by email. “The commission’s recommendations are taken before city council for approval. Staff’s role in the process is purely administrative.”
On Set. 23, per the Texas Public Information Act, the Killeen Daily Herald filed a records request with the city for the actual ballots filled out for the most recent funding cycle by the KAC members, as well as all city documentation and correspondence related to KAC for the most recent funding cycle. The city confirmed the same day that the request has been received and KDH is currently awaiting further reply.