Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A new Mark on the Office of Cultural Affiars?


Angela Hunt revealed -- oh so quietly -- at her townhall meeting last night that "a way has been found to preserve the Office of Cultural Affairs" as a separate entity. Now this is a big deal to all the arts groups around the city and for Ms. Hunt to be so covert about this revelation had me scratching my head. What's going on here? Why not trumpet this news from the rooftops?

Obviously, General Fund moneys are not involved in this. Private donations were secured. Those who donated these funds would be regarded as heroes within the arts community. So why aren't these heroes coming forward to be recognized?

Here's my guess: The money was donated by Mark Cuban, who doesn't want anyone to know he regularly comes to the aid of the city when it is financially strapped. Let me give you an example, although Cuban himself will deny any involvement in this, as will the City of Dallas. There are two Calatrava bridges designated to span the Trinity River. The first and best known, because it has been in the news so much lately, is the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, named after its benefactor. The city, however, had major problems securing the private money needed to pay for the second bridge until Cuban wrote a check to cover it.

Cuban, however, doesn't want anyone to know about his largess, because he fears knowledge of it will make him a "mark" (pun intended) for every money-hungry organization/individual, both legit and, shall we say, dubious. Cuban doesn't want to be on this list of "people you can always turn to when you need money donated." He considers himself a businessman who loves his adopted city but not a charitable foundation. And, frankly, I can see his point here.

Cuban has obvious ties to the arts community through his 2929 Entertainment, which, among other things, owns the Landmark movie theaters, and his Magnolia Pictures, the company that distributed two of my favorite films so far this year, Julia and Big Man Japan. So I can see his interest in coming to the aid of the Office of Cultural Affairs.

Now I'm not saying that Cuban positively donated the money to keep the city's Office of Cultural Affairs open. I'm just suggesting that a lot of signs are pointing in his direction.

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