CONTACT: Krystal Jones, City of San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture
Javier Flores, City of San Antonio World Heritage Office
SAN ANTONIO (March 16, 2021) – The National League of Cities has selected the City of San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture and World Heritage Office for honorary mentions in its 2021 Cultural Diversity Awards.
Submissions for the awards program were grouped by size, and evaluated for creativity, impact on the community and scope of the program. The Department of Arts & Culture was awarded second place in the Over 500,001 Population Category for its Core Grants Program, which invests in authentic and innovative arts and culture organizations, programs and artists in San Antonio. The World Heritage Office was awarded second place in the Over 500,001 Population Category for programming at the City’s historic facility, Mission Marquee Plaza, which is managed by the World Heritage Office. Both departments were chosen from more than 50 communities that submitted applications for the 2021 awards.
The Department of Arts & Culture’s Core Grants Program, specifically its Operational and Culturally Specific Grants for nonprofit arts organizations, underwent a thorough and thoughtful data- and constituent feedback-driven revamp in 2017. The department specifically focused on equitable policies to increase support for culturally significant and diverse organizations and artists that make San Antonio a city rich in arts, culture and heritage. Grants for nonprofit arts organizations operate on a noncompetive scale and place equity top of mind by providing additional funding to organizations whose core missions are to preserve, promote and protect the identity and character of specific communities and/or historically disenfranched groups including Latino/a, African-American, Asian-American, Native American, Women and LGBTQIA+.
”This recognition underscores how the City of San Antonio and our Department of Arts & Culture lead the way in championing policies and practices of cultural equity,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “The Department of Arts & Culture’s Core Grants Program is cutting-edge and highlights the arts and culture that represent who we are and have been as a city. I hope that this programming can serve as a model for other cities to follow to bring equity to the forefront of policymaking.”
In the first year alone, the Core Grants Programs successes include $7.2M of grants awarded to 48 nonprofit arts organizations in San Antonio, with this money leveraged by funded organizations to secure an additional $57M from other funding sources, a 20 percent increase in grant monies distributed to seven Latino/a and Native American nonprofit arts organizations collectively through the targeted “Culturally Specific” funding, and $4.2M combined attendees to cultural events produced by funded arts agencies.
Nestled near the historic San Antonio Missions, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Mission Marquee Plaza continues the site’s long tradition as a community gathering space by hosting seasonal events that have traditionally included free movie screenings, farmers and artisans markets, cultural events, music and literary festivals, and more. Since 2020, as a result of the pandemic, events have switched to virtual and contactless formats to still offer authentic cultural programming, safely and at no cost, to San Antonio residents and visitors. In 2007, the City of San Antonio acquired the iconic former Mission Drive-In Theatre property. In June 2014, Mission Marquee Plaza officially opened its doors for the next generation of nearby Southside families and all of San Antonio residents and visitors to enjoy.
“It is an honor to see The National League of Cities recognize Mission Marquee Plaza in the 2021 Cultural Diversity Awards. We have worked hard and have transformed this beloved landmark immensely throughout the years,” said District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca J. Viagran. “In 2013, I began utilizing this space for community events, as I saw a clear vision of what it could eventually be for the official opening of the facility the following year. In 2014 we started Viva Poesia and since then, we have continued to create wonderful events including the Outdoor Movie Series and the Farmers and Artisan Market. Our programming has been intentional as we celebrate and acknowledge the array of cultures and communities that make San Antonio and District 3 so spectacular. We are proud to have Mission Marquee Plaza as a welcoming gathering place for all of our residents. Congratulations to everyone on this accomplishment – San Antonio is proud and the Southside continues to shine.”
One of the goals of the World Heritage Office is to celebrate, promote and connect the community to San Antonio’s confluence of cultures. From indigenous to modern-day traditions, Mission Marquee Plaza has been central to the community as a public gathering space for residents and visitors to engage, participate and learn through events and programming. Since 2014, Mission Marquee Plaza has welcomed more than 192,000 guests to its pre-pandemic, in-person events. In 2020, the facility’s virtual cultural programming attracted more than 18,000 online participants, and included: Viva Poesia – San Antonio’s official kick-off to National Poetry Month; Mariachi and Selena-inspired Zumbathons; contactless drive-thru farmers & artisans markets in partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank that provided much-needed food items to local residents, a tree giveaway in partnership with the City’s Parks & Recreation Department, and an opportunity for local vendors to sell their handmade wares; a panel discussion on the Mexican American civil rights movement in commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month; and a Dia de los Muertos celebration showcasing the cultural traditions and significance of the Day of the Dead holiday with participation by descendants of San Antonio’s historic missions.
Awardees were recognized at NLC’s virtual Congressional City Conference on March 8, 2021.
“NLC is proud to celebrate the City of San Antonio World Heritage Office and Department of Arts & Culture and their commitment to building a welcoming and inclusive community,” said NLC President Kathy Maness, Councilmember from Lexington, SC. “The Cultural Diversity Awards are a key part of NLC’s work to recognize innovative programs by local leaders.”
To learn more about NLC Cultural Diversity Award winners, visit nlc.org.