Arts Commission Votes To Reallocate Funding for Defunct Alamo City Opera

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The song Payador sung by Jose Rubio during a dress rehearsal of María de Bueno Aires in June of 2018.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

María de Bueno Aires was performed by Alamo City Opera in June 2018.

The City of San Antonio Arts Commission has reallocated $57,813 in annual funding originally intended for the Alamo City Opera to other arts agencies.

The 10-member Arts Commission voted unanimously at its Tuesday meeting to reallocate the funds, after the death of Alamo City Opera founding director Mark Richter. Richter died unexpectedly April 28, and the organization’s board voted June 7 to dissolve the 7-year-old company.

Alamo City Opera had been recommended to receive its annual funding along with 45 other organizations at a June 4 Arts Agency Funding Committee meeting, but the matter was tabled at a June 11 Arts Commission meeting until the committee could “regroup” to discuss the issue.

At its subsequent July 2 meeting, the funding committee received several Department of Arts and Culture staff recommendations for reallocation of the funds and approved distributing the money among midsize organizations that had received no funding increases in the prior budget recommendation.

The funding will be shared among seven midsize agencies: Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA), Opera San Antonio, Public Theater of San Antonio, Ballet San Antonio, Artpace, Arts San Antonio, and the Magik Theatre. Each agency will receive additional funds totaling a 3.66 percent increase from its prior allocation.

At the July 2 meeting prior to the committee vote, Opera San Antonio board Chair Blair Labatt and board member Eduardo Parra made a case for $30,000 of the funding to be reallocated to their company, for a new, winter season featuring smaller opera performances in the mold of Richter’s intimate opera productions.

Bihl Haus founding director Kellen McIntyre made an impassioned case for the funds to go toward helping small arts agencies undertake succession planning – in part to avoid repeats of the Alamo City Opera situation.

After the July 2 meeting, McIntyre expressed disappointment with the funding decision.

Mark Richter, the founding director of the Alamo City Opera, died in April.

“They missed a really big opportunity to honor [Richter],” she said, adding that a plan for moving ahead without Richter was “something his organization didn’t get done, and he would not want any of the others of us go through what his organization just went through.”

McIntyre’s plan would have added money to the existing $75,000 recommended for “capacity building” – helping arts groups strengthen their offerings and organizationsand think about succession plans for their leaders. “That would have given me the little extra that I need to hire someone to begin trailing me for a year,” she explained, to take over for her when she eventually steps down.

McIntyre, who is 68, said several smaller groups in town also are led by directors in their 60s and that “it’s especially hard for the smaller organizations to make that transition to a new person, particularly when there’s a major rupture like that.”

She also expressed regret that only a handful of representatives from arts organizations attended the funding committee meeting. “If the organizations are not engaged, we’re going to have more decisions like this that are staff recommended. That, for me, is troublesome,” she said.

More than 30 people attended Tuesday’s commission meeting, including representatives of various arts agencies City departments. No one signed up to speak during the allotted citizens to be heard segment of the open meeting. After a brief presentation by Karen Dlugosz, contract manager for the department, commissioners approved the recommendation without discussion.

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