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Arts Donors: What’s in a Name?

The new HSPVA is scheduled to open in 2018.


Donations to non-profits can be a tricky business, especially when it comes to naming rights.

The Dallas City Council voted 14-1 recently to recognize a $22 million gift offered by the Galveston-based Moody Foundation to benefit Dallas arts organizations—$12 million toward the AT&T Performing Arts Center and $10 million to create an endowment for small and community arts organizations in Dallas. The Foundation requested that the Dallas City Performance Hall be renamed Moody Performance Hall, reports the Dallas News.

Although the proposal had already gone before the Cultural Affairs Commission and the Arts, Culture & Libraries Committee of the City Council, both of which passed it unanimously, the name change meant it had to go before the City Council. The director of the Office of Cultural Affairs said that the Foundation “feels very strongly that it should operate as a separate entity without approval, specifically at the end, under the auspices of the commission.” One member of the Council voted against it, stating, “This governance plan concentrates too much power in the hands of too few people.”

In Houston, the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) has been pledged $7.5 million by the Kinder Foundation in exchange for renaming the school the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (KHSPVA), prompting strong opposition from some students, parents, and alumni. Letters were written, petitions were signed, and the Foundation released the Houston Independent School District (HISD) from the name stipulation, while still making the gift.

The HSPVA Friends fundraising organization would have none of this. In a written response to the critics of the new name, they stated, “Your uninformed response to their generosity does not reflect HSPVA’s values. The petition puts the future of HSPVA in jeopardy and is a threat to all public schools that wish to seek their own private-public partnerships in order to offer stronger opportunities for young Houstonians.”

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