The city of Plano has a vibrant art scene filled with a diversity of voices. Cultural performance groups, ballet organizations, theater companies, art associations and many more all call the city home and bring their unique artistic perspective to its population. Despite the different needs and desires driving each of those distinct organizations, however, they each have recently found themselves sharing a common cause.
The Collaborative Arts of Plano (CAP), formed in 2015 as the Plano Arts Coalition, is a group of more than 20 of the city’s arts organizations dedicated to working together to elevate Plano’s status as an arts organization. The CAP is currently working with city leaders to advance its major goal of creating a cultural arts plan aimed at guiding the future of Plano’s art-related efforts.
“We convinced the Plano City Council in the fall to invest funds into a cultural arts plan for the city planner because we did not have one,” CAP President Sara Egleston Akers said, referring to the recent efforts of the group’s Cultural Arts Plan of Plano Committee. According to the CAP website, following discussions with the Plano City Council, the city has placed “the estimated cost of consulting services in (its) proposed FY 2023-2024 budget. Funding is subject to the city council’s modification and approval of the budget.”
The CAP’s own preliminary budget estimate is between $75,000 and $100,000, with the group having secured $25,000 in pledges from local organizations and businesses as proposed support for the plan.
“The discussion was that Plano has always had a comprehensive plan, but not one specific to the arts as a lot of cities do, and so the topic was brought up about what we can do to get that rolling along,” Plano City Council Member Julie Holmer said regarding the CAP’s proposal. “The city approved to put out an RFP (request for proposal) for a consultant…and they’re evaluating the applicants for that to look at having a more strategic path for the arts.”
Holmer is a liaison for the city’s Cultural Arts Commission and supports the plan. She explained that the plan would provide a forward-focused approach to the arts to complement the Cultural Arts Commission’s evaluative role in determining how the city should allocate funding to the arts.
“Unless we kind of know where we’re headed, it’s hard to lay the groundwork so we can get there,” Holmer said of the plan.
She detailed how the consultant would help to assess the current state of the arts in Plano and identify areas of strengths and needs to help inform the plan’s direction and therefore the future strategy for the arts in Plano. She added that with the limited space remaining in Plano for new development in mind, it’s important that the city is thoughtful in how it uses that space and looks at how to possibly include the arts within it.
“We would like to make sure that we are celebrating the arts throughout the entire city,” Holmer said.
Downtown Plano Manager Michelle Hawkins, who Holmer described as the city’s liaison regarding the plan’s development, noted that those involved hope to have a consultant chosen this fall. She then expects the consultant to take input from a variety of sources in helping to shape the plan’s direction.
“We expect a lot of public input…because we want this to be a community-driven plan, and we want many voices and backgrounds to go into this plan to help shape our arts moving forward,” Hawkins said.
Holmer also expressed a desire for the plan to be a “city-led initiative with the support, collaboration (and) input from all of the other organizations and individuals” as well in regard to funding.
The city’s expressed desire for a community-focused approach includes forming an advisory group of citizens from different backgrounds that the consultant can reach out to in order to receive regular input during the planning process. It also includes the CAP itself as Hawkins has been a part of a series of meetings every six weeks with the cultural arts plan of Plano Committee to discuss what they would like to see from the plan and the consultant.
“Collaborative Arts of Plano and our arts organizations will definitely have a huge say in the outcome of the plan,” Hawkins said, adding that she views the plan as an opportunity to raise awareness for the work the arts community itself has done to increase its reputation.
CAP President Akers discussed determining what educational resources nonprofits might need in order to grow and what facilities may need to be repurposed or created as possible topics to address with the incoming consultant and advisory group.
Overall, Holmer referred to the cultural arts plan as showing the importance that the arts play in Plano from both an economic and social standpoint, with the plan itself helping ensure the city is living up to its “City of Excellence” tagline.
“(The arts) kind of creates the personality of the city. It’s an economic driver,” Holmer said, referencing her personal experiences seeing increased business in the downtown area during arts events and the city’s other efforts supporting the arts. “We see the benefit to the city in bringing in sales tax revenue and just adding to the quality of life as well.”
This interview has been edited for clarity.