Open letter to Wayne Dolcefino

Mr. Dolcefino,

I am saddened by your refusal to show both sides of this story.  As is the case with any government/public entity, there are probably, if one digs deep enough, instances of errors, and mismanagement- but this report and your ridiculously biased opinion is doing more than you know to hurt the many responsible, accountable, hard-working, modest-living artists in our city.  The average Houstonian does not understand how these funds are generated nor allocated- and you are doing your absolute best to spread the wrong message.  It is not the truth; it is not fair; and it is not right!  I cannot believe, nor will I stand for this type of misinformation to be relayed without a fight.  As someone pointed out in the comments section of your previous segment, Texas ranks 49th in per capita funding ($0.22 per person) among all U. S. State Arts Agencies.  Seeing that the statistics send the message that Texas places little value in art, why do you insist on further victimizing those of us who try to make a living in the arts in this city?  It’s simply a travesty to be kicking the arts community, who rely on charitable dollars and public funding, while its down after an unmerciful hurricane and economic crisis.




MY STORY IS ABOUT TAX SUPPORTED ART PROJECTS not charity or private funds. And the whole story yesterday was asking wheres all the art since weve got eight million dollars collecting dust for that. You should have applauded that.

My response:

Applaud what you’re doing?

You must be joking.

It’s criminal.  And you’re hitting the arts community while it’s down.

If you had any kind of genuine, coherent argument which explained how exactly the HOT funds are generated and allocated, how little those funds stand in comparison to those funds allocated for other public projects (like stadiums), and how those funds go to countless responsible, accountable, and talented artists in our city and THEN pointed out that a PORTION of those funds have been mismanaged, I might have some respect for your position.  I no more want to see my tax dollars wasted than you do.  But as it stands, this is irresponsible muckraking- biased, lop-sided, and ridiculous.

Your report on Sunday night angered me, but your report last night really went over the edge.  And what especially upset me are the first lines of your transcript:
“We’ve gotten an earful from artists about my supposed lack of culture because they are under the mistaken impression we spend tax money just to create art. In fact, we spend hotel tax money on art to bring in tourists to fill up hotel rooms.”

To the contrary, most of the artists writing in were trying to correct the misleading information you relayed in your report.  Mr. Dolcefino, for those of us who have written those HAA grants or have sat on those HAA panels, we know EXACTLY where those funds are coming from- I’m afraid you are not telling us anything we don’t already know.  It’s spreading misleading and dangerous information to the masses that worries us.  The general public is not going to watch your report and cry out for the hault of the very specific projects you targeted as errant- No, to the contrary, without the whole story, your report will engender even more apathy for art in our community than already exists.

Do you realize that some of our artistic entities in Houston rank among the best in the country (if not world in a few cases)?  Do you realize that, despite that fact, it is difficult for our art community to be taken seriously even in our own state?  Why?  And what do you hope to accomplish by attacking one of the few organizations dedicated to supporting the fledgling/fringe arts entities that truly contribute to the very rich quality of art in our city? (Arts entities that our own Mayor admitted to preferring to the larger arts groups in the Business of the Arts luncheon a few weeks ago.)

But the greater issue here is that it seems you place no value on art for public use.  You claim that you take no issue with private funding or charity- but what about all the municipal architecture and beautification projects that rely on public funds?  Are those, too, to be left for the private sector to fund?  Where does one draw the line?  How can you justify the building of multiple sports stadiums in our city when the annual economic impact of the arts in our city equals 4 Super Bowls (a statistic that did not come from HAA, but from the Mayor himself)?  Public funding of the arts is a long tradition in our country and globally- though the United States subsidizes the arts to a lesser extent than many European countries.  And your report suggests these public funds are largely misused?  Is your next suggestion to remove public funding for arts education in our schools?  Because I’m afraid that is already happening.  Sadly.  So, am I to understand that not only are we suffering from a dwindling constituency of arts patrons due to the lack of arts education in public schools, but we are not supposed to fund those few artists who have managed to survive with a comparatively small portion of public funds?  This is outrageous.  It is a mindset that engenders the idea that art is only a luxury for the elite.  And when art is deemed a luxury, it is deemed disposable.

Again, I reiterate that what you’re doing is simply irresponsible journalism.

Jenni Rebecca


~ by ladamesansregrets on November 11, 2008.

45 Responses to “Open letter to Wayne Dolcefino”

  1. The Dolcefino email exchange continued:

    His reply:

    “Have a nice day.”

    And my reply:

    “Mr. Dolcefino,
    I am sad that you’ve chosen not to respond to the questions I posed in my email. Yesterday, in an email, you told a friend of mine that the debate was half the fun- does the same not apply when questions are directed back to you? I know you feel as though you are doing our city a great service, but it is not a greater service to address both sides of an issue so that the public can make educated decisions for themselves?

  2. The Dolcefino email exchange continued:

    Dolcefino’s most recent response:


    Number one. Comparing monies for art and stadiums isn’t the issue, although I would remind you I have questioned spending on every darn stadium we have. Second , 18 percent of all hotel tax money goes to the arts.

    Since you sit on HAA panels , take a look at the final grants, dozen of them misrepresent the audience, many of the programs are presented in venues that attract virtually no tourists, or in a city gallery that even city hall didn’t know exist.

    Third, no one has questioned the 1.75 percent ordinance for art. Instead we questioned why monies set aside for the last nine years hasn’t been used. The flaming chicken debate wasn’t created by 13 Undercover. In fact, the city tells us they have terminated the artist for designs that were rejected by the fire department.

    As regards my interest in public art. That really isn’t the point. In fact, it is the city controller, who authored the art ordinance who questions the use of the money for big public art pieces instead of art beautification projects, or on benches, architectural improvements.

    In fact, if you look at the history of art projects in Houston you will remember that little kids collected pennies to build the Sam Houston statue. Ive got an idea for you HAA folks.

    Why don’t you get the schools to pick their best student arts and have them do art around the city, so that Houston becomes famous for heralding the future. We could give schools grants for arts classes.

    I have my eleven year old and eight year olds art on my living room walls. I am proud of it, so don’t lecture me on art. My job is to discuss the use of taxpayer money, and that is what I am doing.

    Noone likes getting their ox gored, but perhaps the art community should be expressing its outrage that only one piece of civic art has been done in two and a half years by a bureaucracy that has grown to almost a 900,000 dollar payroll.

    Love to chat more, but there’s more art to make.


  3. The Dolcefino email exchange continued:

    My final reply:

    Mr. Dolcefino,

    Before I set about to respond to the rest of your email, I feel that I should clarify something:

    I am not an employee of the Houston Arts Alliance- However, I have volunteered to sit on a HAA granting panel. To prepare, I spent a great deal of time reading through a thick book of detailed applications for all types of artwork- from performing (music, dance, theatre) to visual to craft. I, along with my colleagues, carefully reviewed the numbers in each application with eagle eyes. Why? To be frank, because several of us serving on this peer-review panel compete for the same pool of limited funds allocated by the HAA for our own arts organizations. It does not behoove us to carelessly throw funds towards artists and art organizations who will squander it. Each of us has had to pen our own grants, come up with fair estimates of attendance and impact, and report on our product for accountability. Those of us who have received a portion of the limited public funds are very appreciative of every penny, as we are competing with countless talented artists, as well as hundreds of valuable, viable arts organizations for a comparatively small amount of money.

    I have to admit, though, that I am confused by your stance. You suggest that no one is questioning the allocation of 1.75 percent in your emails, but your TV segment repeats over and over “Is this art? Is it worth it?” With these statements, you are targeting the art that IS done- not the art that remains incomplete. And that, Mr. Dolcefino, is why you are getting this kind of backlash from the arts community. The quality or value of that art is not up for you- or even I- to decide alone.

    I quote: “many of the programs are presented in venues that attract virtually no tourists, or in a city gallery that even city hall didn’t know exist.” Yes, I imagine that’s true to some extent. Would you like to know why that’s true? Because the bulk of the most interesting fringe arts groups in Houston cannot afford to rent and perform in/exhibit in larger public spaces.

    I think it’s interesting that you make a suggestion for investing in the future of our city’s arts. What you don’t necessarily realize is that is precisely what the Houston Arts Alliance does! They allow for a very small portion of the funds to be allocated to the 100’s of artists and arts groups striving to put Houston on the cultural map. So many of these artists and groups are young, emerging, and uninvolved in any type of bureaucracy whatsoever. With the disbursement of these public funds to the aforementioned entities, HAA is doing nothing if not investing in and ‘heralding the future.’


  4. The Dolcefino email exchange continued:

    Wow, I guess he must have found my blog, because nowhere in my correspondence with him did I ever criticize his art. Only in my comments section did someone claim he was a “failed musician.” (And I don’t even know who it was.)

    I encourage everyone to write in for themselves. This is not about engaging in name-calling or immature banter. This is about encouraging someone, ANYONE to tell the full story. The cheap shots at Dolcefino personally do not help our cause- reasonable, thought-out facts, figures, and productive debate will help our cause. Let’s not be reactive, but proactive.

    His final response:

    “Id love to chat some more, but Im not going to change your mind. It is not the job of state tax dollars to help struggling arts groups survive. It is the function of state tax dollars to benefit tourism, so that hotels have guests. ThaT IS JUST A FACT.

    And while a few grants seem to be absurd on their face to me, my focus was on grants that have been criticized by government officials, or on exposing grants that have not been properly policed. That is on HAA.

    You questioned why I was not responding and I did. If you don’t like the answer that’s your business.

    I find it ironic an artist would criticize my art, but of course Ive learned a lot of art folks are thin skinned this week.”

  5. Bravo Jenni

    Wayne’s brand of ‘journalism’ once again shows his ineptitude at proving a valid point. It was completely subjective and void of any counter point. When is ABC going to address this two bit reporter?

    Wayne, I have said it before – Please move to LA and report on who’s sleeping with who for TMZ. Or better yet move back to Brooklyn, no one in Texas can stand you

  6. Quote on this page


    11/11/08 2:56 PM EST
    I just came onto this post and noticed an advertisment for the Alley Theatres “A CHristmas Carol.” How ironic that the Arts help pay for Dolcefinos salary…idiot..

  7. Jenni

    I think by ‘half the fun’ he means only him debating

  8. Wow, this whole thing is just absurd. Keep it up!

  9. Kudos Jenni.

  10. Wow. So they stopped enforcing writing requirements in journalism school, eh Wayne? Is his middle name Palin?

  11. Here’s a little something about Wayne the “artist.” He is a failed, miserable musician. That guy used to sit in on percussion with bands I knew and played with back in the mid-90’s. Only his name got him on stage but it was promptly followed by the collective eye rolling of the rest of the band.

    Perhaps his anger is over the fact that he himself is a failed artist. Hmmm…

  12. Thanks Jenni I admire you for speaking up. I just tears me up that the extremely talented and passionate artists and arts groups are being dragged down by this third rate reporter. My question is what is supposed to be the out come of of this story? And what does Abc13 want as a result of this smear? And if things change will Abc13 be there to report on that. Will they even care then?

  13. Jenni, thank you for opening up the lines of communication about this. It’s not fair that they’re only telling one side of the story.

  14. Jenni, thanks for hosting this public dialogue. I still haven’t seen the original story but have heard the rumblings about it in the Twitterverse. And here I stumble across your blog. I like that he touts the Sam Houston statue as an important piece of public art.

  15. I think when he says his “art,” he means his stories on tv. That’s the way I took it.

    Regardless of his opinions, it is clear that he is really, REALLY irritable. Talk about sensitive.

  16. Thanks Jenni. You’re awesome.

  17. Leave art to the little children? What a waste of headspace, this guy. As for Sam Houston — I know David Adickes wasn’t living on anyone’s kids’ pennies. Art costs money to produce and justifies that cost ten-fold. Is that the part he’s missing?

    “My kids can make art for free, why should artists get to eat?”

    Here is goes, indeed.

  18. Good Job Jenni! Is it alright if I post it onto our blog? ?

  19. There’s a huge difference between an 8 and 11 year old’s art (as Dolcefino said in one of his replies) and the stuff we do. I’m sorry guys, but we’re dealing with someone who JUST. DOESN’T. GET. IT.

  20. Mr. Dolcefino would not have to be so defensive if he had originally created a more concise, cogent report. His unsupported theses and accusatory tone is inflammatory; every response that he is getting he called for himself. True, a factual and even-toned response to his report would create an atmosphere that is more conducive to dialogue – but if Mr. Dolcefino desired to create a dialogue wouldn’t using these tools have worked equally as well for himself? Mr. Dolcefino’s lack of interest in creating a dialogue fostered this environment of insults and he is deserving of that consequence.

    It’s a shame that airtime – hosted over a system of channels that THE PUBLIC paid for – is being used to tear down an aspect of Houston society that is intrinsic to the Houston so many of us know and love. Perhaps “a lot of art folks” aren’t thin skinned, but instead reacting to Mr. Dolcefino’s harsh and uneducated accusations. If you ask me, TV is a more serious problem in our society than artists and a few misplaced/mismanaged grants. It wields too much power over our society’s attention.

    Mr. Dolcefino, if you’re so upset with the allocation of these grants, why don’t you step away from TV Land and creating reports my 8th grade teacher wouldn’t accept, and get involved like a responsible community member.

  21. Great job Jenni – Down with Dolcefino!

  22. thanks for starting this CONSTRUCTIVE dialog jenni!

  23. In response to Mr. Keeney:

    Wonderful point- I don’t disagree in the least.

    I am a big fan of welcoming scrutiny and input for future improvements to the system. I attempted to make a similar point (in perhaps a more defensive and less eloquent way) in my responses to Dolcefino. I do not want funding intended for the arts to be mismanaged either, and I would never claim that mistakes have not been made. That is the nature of the system. However, Dolcefino’s tactics are misguided- his journalism does not educate- it agitates and perpetuates a philistine attitude that we are already combatting in our city.

    However, I imagine we would not disagree so much over Dolcefino’s journalistic integrity, and your point is well taken.

  24. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jenni, that was amazing.

  25. He’s certainly not afraid of the caps lock key, is he?

    First of all, not everything he’s ranting at you is total bunk; I think this is an accident. A youth arts program would be great. Oh wait, those exist. They’re underfunded. Surprise! A stronger focus on arts education in schools would prevent people like Mr. Dolcefino from growing up in total ignorance. Also, the implication that art is a game for children is somewhat galling. Ask Anne Bogart about what it means to dedicate your adult life to creating art.

    In all seriousness, in the interest of debate, I am going to play devil’s advocate. I am NOT arguing that this appalling and pig-ugly man-beast is correct in his methods or presentation.

    Unfortunately, the nature of art throughout time is that the art that “sells” gets the money, from people who come to see it/buy it/whatever. However, in order for even the art that “sells” to make enough to sustain itself, it would have to sell tickets about about $50 a seat (*cough*The Alley*cough*). Especially in our current, crippled economy. So the grants we receive from, for example, HAA, is not so much for “us” as artists; it is for the people who come to see our art. At the end of the day, guys, we serve our audience . . . without them we are just beating off in a vacuum. What concerns me is that affordable performing arts (especially, since performing requires expensive elements such as space rental, sets, costumes, etc.) is unsustainable, and even when it is sustained, it is done so at a cost that is unaffordable to “average” people. Not to harp on a theater that I actually love, but many, many people cannot afford The Alley; including my parents and many of my friends. What bothers me about lack of federal funding for the arts is that, out of necessity, it creates an artistic environment accessible only to the wealthy, thereby perpetuating what is basically a classist system. You want to see elitism? Come out to the Theatre District on an opening night.

    So what I want to clarify is that I’m not whining that I’m not getting enough grant money to quite my miserable day job and live comfortably on earnings from my art. If we wanted amazing salaries, we would be lawyers. If you’re a painter, poet, writer, dancer, actor, director . . . whatever, and someone during your education did not tell you “you will never make any money ever,” then you were done a disservice, but my understanding is that we knew what we signed up for. The first thing I learned in theater is that the average theater artist works for free, or for next to nothing. Something like 80% of actors make $20,000.00 a year (or less).

    Where I take issue with our Hutt-esque friend is the implication that he has some kind of authority as “arbiter of good taste” in terms of art in Houston. I’m not interested in his opinion on profanity in play writing, lesbian puppet shows, or flaming chickens (that are actually Phoenixes). I feel like his little “expose” has focused entirely on his opinion of the work being DONE rather than merely on the bureaucracy that surrounds the funding of it. Also, he has failed to point out what a crime it is that Houston artists are so underfunded, and that Houston is the fourth largest city in the nation, yet has a lagging arts community (when compared even to smaller cities like Seattle).

  26. “It is not the job of state tax dollars to help struggling arts groups survive. It is the function of state tax dollars to benefit tourism, so that hotels have guests. ThaT IS JUST A FACT.”

    I agree Mike! I think it is the job of state tax dollars to help a struggling art SCENE survive, not just the groups. The tax dollars benefit the scene and the scene benefits tourism. As for the range of the art spectrum in Houston, we must keep it broad and diverse. By judging what is “art” by who knows where what venue is, and what is being produced there is ridiculous. I don’t think that the majority of people knew the location of the church in Illinois where Steppenwolf was born either.

    I was really angry when this Dolcefino story first popped up, but now I agree that it has opened a nice dialogue. Maybe with the reaction Wayne is getting he can extend his expose to include the other half of the story.

  27. Jenni-

    You’ve done a nice job expressing yourself thoughtfully and diplomatically. I have to let you know I am really proud of you and encouraged to have you on our side to fight the good fight. When my inclination is to do something visceral that I would soon regret, I applaud you for not. You make a statement more lasting.

  28. “Ive got an idea for you HAA folks.

    Why don’t you get the schools to pick their best student arts and have them do art around the city, so that Houston becomes famous for heralding the future. We could give schools grants for arts classes.”

    Because I’m 34 years old and have stopped pursuing art full time, because I can’t get my foot in the door. I work a crapy job that takes up too much of my time and for my time I can’t pay the bills or afford healthcare. HAA helps to support artist to pursue their dreams and I will continue to support that in anyway I can.

  29. I have been watching this from the sidelines for a few days now and I have to say that HAA and the arts community in general is squandering a great opportunity. Anyone who appreciates government funding of the arts should THANK Wayne for shining the light on the how funding decisions are made. It seems silly to suggest that HAA or any other organization is beyond reproach and has a 100% success record. That simply is not the case, so instead of being defensive, welcome scrutiny and invite input — even if it lacks the depth of understanding of the nuance and meaning of art. What Wayne has given you this week is PRICELESS. He is making hundreds of thousands of Houstonians aware of their city’s arts funding program. Now it is up to HAA and the Houston arts community to make sure that your policies, procedures and personnel are up to the challenge. Every organization can continuously improve — and sometimes improvement is coaxed on by painful self-examination. Take advantage of this opportunity and maybe the city will redouble its commitment to funding the arts. Continue to be defensive and resist change and you risk losing the city’s support.

  30. Thanks for setting the facts straight, Jenny. I know you will turn this into a positive; we need more folks like you fighting for culture in this city. Merci a la dame!

  31. If Wayne reported in his TV broadcast as he has here, things may have been much less inflamatory. There is no mention of the 1.75 percent that MUST go to public art for any public building rennovation or new project. So, this is not tax money just being spent to be spent. It has to go to public art. That puts the whole report in a different context, and then the issue of “where is the art” is much more productive. Much of the reports have also centered on “is this really art?”. Getting into that debate is useless. The choice of “critics” in the segment at Discovery Green was almost laughable. How about also interviewing someone that has received an education. There is no one in the arts community that seriously thinks fraud or waste is OK. Any group that receives funding but lies on attendance numbers or proper use of the funds should be found out and eliminated from the grant process. It’s these groups and artists that give everyone a bad name. As Jenni has stated, there are many many artists and organizations that do draw tourists and provide for a rich cultural experience for anyone who lives or visits here. Wayne’s story could have been so much more productive if the focus had not been on sensationalism and hype. The producers at Ch. 13 are asleep for allowing such a one sided and arrogant story air without the FULL story and also a story presented for intelligent people.

  32. “Id love to chat some more, but Im not going to change your mind. It is not the job of state tax dollars to help struggling arts groups survive. It is the function of state tax dollars to benefit tourism, so that hotels have guests. ThaT IS JUST A FACT.”

    that is not a fact, it is a choice. the job of tax dollars is exactly and only whatever the public and its elected officials decide it is. It is an overall arts scene that helps attracts tourists, not one particular show, generally. The fact is I know if I go to Chicago or New York or Seattle that I am going to have opportunities to see cool stuff, whether I come to see any one in particular is irrelevant. The fact that these cities have scenes that put out good work is the only reason they are on the list of cities I’ll visit if I ever don’t have rehearsal. Argh! Anyway, it is all so frustrating…

  33. Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems like there are two very different issues going on. One is over tax dollars and funding. The other is over bad art.

    I can deal with scrutiny over bad funding practices, bad ridiculing art in this manner is simply irresponsible.

  34. Unbelieveable.

  35. WAY TO GO JR!

    I’m so proud of you. Artists and Teachers have a special place in Heaven. As for One-sided journalists…..they have a special place too….just not in Heaven 🙂

    Keep up the good work. I feel privileged to have even known you!

  36. I still think we should photoshop Dolcefino’s face on the “flaming chicken” (which I instantly knew was a phoenix because I have a brain) and go around asking people what they think it is. I’m sure the responses would be hilarious!

  37. Fortunately for JR and the rest of us, ratings sweeps will end November 26, at which point Wayne Dolcefino will no longer be the lead story on KTRK’s 10 p.m. news. He is currently in his element, having justified his “undercover reporter” job by picking a topic sure to draw viewers. And we arts supporters out here are actually helping to justify his job when we tune in and the average quarter hour ratings for the first 15 minutes go up.

    I hope that Mr. Dolcefino gets this point across: the tax money alloted to Houston Arts Alliance comes from “heads in beds” hotel occupancy taxes, which means visitors and out of towners staying in Houston hotels pay this tax. His reporting is making it sound as though Houstonians are paying this tax (“It’s YOUR money!”) as part of their yearly tax bill, which is not the case.

    Houston Arts Alliance is a vital part of the arts scene in this community and to see it, and the people associated with it, shown in such an unflattering light (literally), should be an embarrassment to KTRK. Hundreds of worthy organizations work hard to get HAA grants each year to fulfill their missions. My hope is that someone will cover THAT as opposed to seeking ratings through inflammatory programming during the next sweeps period.

  38. Hi Jenni,

    Your initiative begin a dialogue about this misleading pseudo-journalism is to be applauded. I don’t know if it has been said already and if it has, I apologize for not reading the entire blog. I just wanted to make sure that everyone is very clear that Dolcefino’s use of the term “Tax Dollars” has not been properly framed in his assertions. He has not made it clear to his viewers that these are not Houston taxpayer dollars, these are not dollars that citizens pay in property taxes, these “tax dollars” are a fraction of the hotel room tax charged to people who stay in our hotels when visiting. This fraction of the hotel tax is used encourage art and artistic expression and to give our city a deeper and broader cultural base.

    The notion that any one person or even any specialized group of people can determine what is art is utter nonsense. Art that produces no emotional or visceral reaction has no impact, therefore art can not be art without creating fans and detractors. What would Mr. Dolcefino have us do?… only create art by consensus? Or worse would he have the creative process taken out of the artist’s hands and into the hands of an outside agency? Would Wayne Dolcefino like to be the supreme arbiter of good taste for the city of Houston?

    The overwhelming sense I get, talking to people all over the country is that something very special is happening in Houston’s cultural scene. I know and work with artists that have moved here in the last year or so because of the dynamic arts scene, cost of living, affordability of studio space and strength of the community. If anything this is a time to celebrate Houston’s cultural diversity and Houston’s rich wealth of artistic independence.

    The last thing I would speak out against is freedom of speech… but isn’t Mr. Dolcefino using freedom of speech to attack freedom of speech?

    I will use my freedom of speech to say that Houston has nothing to apologize for. We have both arts and music scenes that are so rich and eclectic that they stand out among the cities of the world. Art and music scenes that are the envy of a great many communities. Public art is an important part of this success.

    As Houston becomes a brighter star on the world stage, there are some of us that will rise with it and others that will be left behind. Those that have nothing to contribute will stand on the sidelines and complain as the status quo changes. Those that celebrate the city’s success, that support and contribute to our growing success will reap the benefits.

    it has become trite to say that that people will fear that which they do not understand, but it is sadly still true.

  39. Well, I thought that I should add my two cents worth as someone who funds the arts out of private funds…

    First, I would like to thank Mr. Dolcefino for thinking enough of the Houston Arts’ community to start the dialog, and Jenni for caring enough to ensure that all artistic endeavors don’t get a black eye (which I don’t believe was Mr. D’s intent). When Mr. Keeney welcomed the scrutiny and said that this is a PRICELESS moment of fame for Houston Arts, he is right!

    I personally believe that most ART is a waste, and I don’t “get” much of it. What ART I do “get”, makes my soul soar – music, some of Nova Arts Project’s plays (, Houston Grand Opera, artists like Sharon Kopriva ( The problem is what I define as ART is not someone else’s ART. Mr. Dolcefino’s statements were to the extent that no ART was made or attempted – bravo.

    Now, here is the crux of the conversation. Mr. Dolcefino, please allow Jenni and/or other artists based organizations like to have their moment in the sun – allow them to portray what is working in this city’s arts. Allow them to tell the big wide viewing audience why not all arts organizations are a waste, or are wasting our (the public)money.

    I believe we all agree – ART is in the eye of the beholder, will help our community if we allow it to, and there is ART happening in Houston.

  40. Thanks Jenni. This has been really a great exchagne, and your position reflects my own. I admit a bias towards the value of public art in general and the work of HAA in particular. But I still think that starting a inquiry into the proper use of public funds with a subjective and dirisive “is this art?”

    I commented a bit on my own blog on this issue. But I did not go further to engage the reporter directly. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Dolcefino that the oversight of public moneys is a valid and important story. But his approach in dirisive critique of art he does not like or appreciate does not ell that story.

  41. Jenni, thanks for your eloquence and your tenacity. I appreciate it personally and professionally.

    xoxo, xta

  42. I just visited Houston as part of the National Arts Marketing Project conference last week. A new TX colleague posted this stunning piece of “journalism” on his Facebook page, and I’ve been entranced with it – and the public response – all evening long.

    As an outsider, MY tax dollars – including, apparently, about 20% of the $8.33 I paid in hotel tax per night – are supporting the Houston arts scene. While I certainly don’t want to see my tax dollars squandered, this report has made it seem as though all artists funded through grants administered by HAA are making out like bandits with free money. Certainly that kind of fraud isn’t allowable, but I think it’s important to recognize that we’re talking about fraud on the $7,500 scale… not fraud on the millions-and-billions scale perpetrated by Houston’s favorite former energy company. When it comes to investigating fraud, we need to remember that size matters. I bet there’s the same percentage of swindlers in almost every field. In the arts, they make out with hundreds of dollars. In other sectors, they make out with billions.

    Smaller arts organizations are, in my opinion, the avenue that takes people deeper, beyond the known, the recognizable and the familiar. In cities across America, small arts organizations cultivate voracious arts consumers. And it is those tourists – not the ones who can buy a ticket to see Wicked in any city in the country – who power a city’s cultural tourism program. So perhaps, rather than criticize the HAA for supporting its local scene, Dolcefino should be applauding the efforts of every arts funder in every city in the country, whose investments create a culture that wants to see Houston’s art. As tourists. Paying hotel tax.

    Keep it up.

  43. He’s at it again. Tonight. Sigh….

    Seriously, I can’t believe that more people outside of the arts can’t see how unnecessarily aggressive he is being about this. Perhaps contacting another local station (Fox for whatever reason seems to be more receptive to creative endeavors) to act as a counter to his reports would be effective?

  44. Wayne D wrote: In fact, if you look at the history of art projects in Houston you will remember that little kids collected pennies to build the Sam Houston statue.

    I wish I’d seen this statement when it was current. If Dolcefino had bothered to check the financing of the Sam Houston statue, he would have found that a portion of the statue was paid by the state of Texas, a portion was paid by the city of Houston, and the balance was supposed to be paid by contributions from the public.

    Unfortunately for Enrico Cerracchio, he completed the statue before he was paid in full. The state and the city fulfilled their commitments, but funding from the public fell short of the pledged amount. As late as the mid 1940s, Mr. Cerracchio continued to appear before the Houston City Council seeking payment of the balance.

    As far as I have been able to determine, Mr. Cerracchio went to his grave without being paid for the statue.

  45. […] Stephenson of Nova Arts Project has been emailing in a passionate volley with Dolcefino , and while his bluster is palpable in caps lock rapture he is quite capable of summarizing his […]

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