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Texas Arts Alliance

Kendall Curlee General Entry

The Texas Arts Alliance, a private nonprofit arts advocacy organization, was founded in 1976 and ceased to exist in 1987. The organization developed from a group called Concerned Citizens for the Arts. The members set as their first priority raising the rank of Texas from fiftieth of the states in per capita state funding for the arts. To stimulate public and private funding of the arts, they determined to develop a broad-based, well-informed arts constituency in the state; to publicize the quality and diversity of the arts in Texas; and to cooperate with other Texas arts organizations to meet mutual goals. Prominent Texans involved with the organization from an early date included Jane Sandlin, Steven C. Oaks, John Ben Shepperd, Nancy Brown Negley, Charles Scarborough, and Lou Ann Temple. The Texas Arts Alliance was governed by a board of forty-five directors who met four times a year. They were assisted by the board of governors, a much larger advisory group. Both boards were statewide, with members elected to three-year terms on a rotating basis. The alliance was funded by memberships, corporate and foundation grants, and earnings from programs, and was independent of all government agencies. In January 1978 the alliance hired Susan Morehead to direct the organization. Under her leadership the Texas Arts Alliance developed a membership that included about 1,000 individuals; city arts organizations; corporations; and the state's major museums, symphonies, and theaters. Staff size fluctuated from one to five persons throughout the eleven years of activity of the organization.

The Texas Arts Alliance developed a number of services that were successful in stimulating increased funding for the arts. Organized for the first time in 1979 was Arts Day, a biennial grassroots lobbying effort in which artists and arts enthusiasts from across the state met at the Capitol for a briefing, followed by meetings and lunches with legislators. In that year a 150 percent increase was passed for the two-year budget for the Texas Commission on the Arts. By 1987 more than 500 people from thirty-five cities across the state were traveling to Austin to participate in Arts Day. To focus public attention on arts activity in the state, the Texas Arts Alliance and the Texas Commission on the Arts cosponsored a biennial Texas Arts Showcase, scheduled to coincide with the legislative session, during which Texas Arts awards were bestowed upon outstanding businesses, organizations, schools, communities, and individuals who had supported or advanced the arts in Texas. To further educate the state's arts constituency, the alliance published a newsletter (the schedule of which varied through the years) and legislative updates that were sent to members during legislative sessions. The Texas Arts Alliance also formed informal coalitions with other arts groups to support legislation such as the Sixty-eighth Legislature's House Bill 72, a school reform act that included art education in the state's core curriculum (it became law in 1984).

In 1986 the Texas Arts Alliance strengthened grassroots arts advocacy by launching an arts district program, in which thirty-one arts districts corresponding to senate districts could inform constituents on public arts funding issues. However, this and other programs sponsored by the Texas Arts Alliance were undermined by the economic slump in Texas from the middle to late 1980s. The organization ceased to exist after July 15, 1987. The Texas Arts Alliance subsequently sold its membership list to the Texas Arts Council, which promised to continue the work of the alliance. Arts supporters formed two lobbying groups, a political action committee called Pro-Arts, Incorporated, and a lobbying group, the Texas Association for the Promotion of the Arts; these groups have continued the fight for public support of the arts.

Austin Files, Austin History Center. Marilyn Good, "The Battle of the Arts Budget," Austin Arts and Leisure, August 1979. Texas Commission on the Arts, Record Group 183, Texas State Archives, Austin.


  • Visual Arts
  • Organizations

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kendall Curlee, “Texas Arts Alliance,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 27, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995