Terry Loftis’ new office is just across the plaza from his former high school, Booker T. Washington.He grew up in Oak Cliff and was accepted to the arts magnet for music. After a couple of decades in the marketing and communications business, Loftis decided he wanted to produce a Broadway show. He was associate producer on “Ann,” the musical about former Texas Gov. Ann Richards. Then in 2015, he produced “The Visit,” which was nominated for a Tony Award. And a couple of years later, he produced the Tony-winning “Bandstand.” Now he is the new executive director of The Arts Community Alliance, known as TACA. The 52-year-old nonprofit raises money for performing and visual arts, which is delivered through grants. Last year, TACA grants totaled about $760,000, which was given to organizations as big as the AT&T Performing Arts Center and the Nasher Sculpture Center and as small as Cry Havoc Theater Company and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.
What are you excited about?
To move TACA into a new area of relevancy. In 50 years, TACA has established a significant brand in the arts community. However, given the changes in the cultural arts in North Texas, I think there’s opportunity. There are more diverse offerings in Dallas now than there ever have been. There’s a greater story to tell, and I think TACA needs to be on the forefront of that narrative.
What is the greater story?
We’re now doing programs where we’re going behind the scenes and showing the public what it takes to put a production on, what it takes to put an exhibit on. We’re becoming more than just grant funders to really contributing more to programmatic aspects of the cultural arts. Where I want to see it go is far beyond that. We should be the conduit to make sure there are no gaps in the system. If you have a smaller organization like Kitchen Dog Theater or Second Thought, how are we being a better resource for them to be absolutely successful? How can TACA be the catalyst to assist them with donor development, audience engagement, marketing, budget planning? My objective starting in 2020 will be to bring everyone together. Let’s put everyone together and see how we can all be a resource to help each other because that’s only going to help Dallas. So it’s being more of a resource to make them more successful instead of writing a check and saying, “we’ll see you next year.”
How did you come up with that plan?
It was common sense to me. TACA needs to be seen as the gold standard again in arts funding. It needs to be the gold standard in helping our beneficiaries develop who they are and what they do and do it better. Luckily I have the support of the board and the staff. I worked on the corporate side for most of my career and, insanely, decided to produce a few shows on Broadway. But also, because of the fact that I’m also an artist, it brings a different perspective as opposed to someone sitting in this chair who has a management skillset and a fundraising background. I’m still a working artist. I still sing in clubs as much as I can. That’s a unique perspective that no one that’s been in this position has had before. When I say I have our beneficiaries’ interests at heart, it’s because I’m a performing artist. That enables me to be a change agent for the arts in Dallas using TACA as the catalyst to do that.
You have a lot of experience with fundraising from serving on the boards of Resource Center and Black Tie dinner.
The easiest thing about this job is asking for money because I’m not afraid to do it. And what makes it even easier is that I’m selling something that was ingrained in me from the embryo. My mother was singing to us when we were still in the womb.
What is the job like so far?
Leaving Oak Cliff and driving over here every day … to get to come to this office, to be surrounded by the arts. To be able to look at the high school where it all started, it’s like coming home. It’s really cool for me, and I get these butterflies. Out of everything I did on Broadway, out of everything I did in a 25-year career in marketing and advertising. Who would’ve thought I’d be giddy getting up to go to work every morning? The timing was right for TACA, and the timing was right for me.
What other goals do you have for TACA?
Probably on a five-year trajectory would be to more than double the amount of revenue we produce that is going back out to our beneficiaries. That will be a process, not an event. The number of applicants we receive every year continually goes up. Not all of those organizations can be funded. In addition to giving more money, the other initiative is for those institutions who may not get in, for whatever reason, TACA also has to be there to say, “You didn’t make it this year. Here’s why, and here’s what we can do to mentor you to make sure that if you apply again, that you can get in.”
What can people reading this do to help your mission?
We just announced our Arts Ambassadors program. At a $25 level, you can become a member of TACA. It levels up to $2,500 for individual memberships. And come to our programs, Perforum and Let’s TACA ’Bout It. I hope to initiate a few more community-wide events so that even if they’re not a regular contributor to TACA, they learn about the organizations that we give money to.
You left a lucrative job to take this position. Why is it so important to you?
Had it not been for my exposure to the arts as this little kid from Oak Cliff, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. I would never have produced a show in New York. I would’ve never gotten on stage and sang. Being from Dallas, being from Oak Cliff, being a person of color running probably the oldest arts organization in Dallas, allows me the opportunity to reach into the communities where there are other Terry Loftises out there in grade school and middle school and high school who may not see where their future is going to go. My brand personally can help them do that, and TACA can help them for sure.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.