You Gotta Have the ArtsAug 01, 2020 ● By Stephen Hunt
A Hands-On Approach
After several conversations with her real estate agent, Jeff Cheney, then a city councilman who is now entering his second term as mayor, she got involved. Mr. Cheney appointed her arts representative for the Frisco Citizen Bond Committee in 2015, where she spearheaded a successful bond issue for a new performing arts center.
“That was a really great learning experience because I was very immersed in the conversation,” she said. “I didn’t realize how divisive it was. It was a shock people got very angry talking about the arts in Frisco. I really made a commitment that we needed to change the conversation on the arts. It needs to be a positive one and it needs to have a new face.”
Ms. Meinershagen then joined the Frisco Arts board and remembers her first time volunteering, playing piano at a reception for an award-winning local artist. What she remembers most about that experience is how few people were in attendance. She also knew managing the Frisco Discovery Center was diverting Frisco Arts from its core mission of building a stronger community through the arts, so she got the ball rolling on getting the organization out of its management contract with the city for that venue.
“I realized there was a big lack of centralized communication on the arts and I said we need to get back to our mission,” Ms. Meinershagen said. “We’ve got to start doing that and not worrying about managing this facility. Because things were always done that way (Frisco Arts managing the Discovery Center), no one ever questioned it, but I could see we were never going to get anywhere if we didn’t get a chance to actually make an impact.” She credits the great support she received from her fellow board members, the city council, city staff and the Frisco Arts leadership for helping make that vision become reality in 2016.
A Major Paradigm Shift
Ms. Meinershagen will draw upon the lessons from those previous experiences in the latest challenge for Frisco Arts – taking it from a membership-based organization, which it has been since its 1996 inception, to a foundation, a shift occurring late summer. She considers this shift essential.
“Well, the biggest advantage is really greater impact because we’re going to be able to focus on sustaining the art sector,” she said. “We’re going to have the same logo and mission to build a stronger community with the arts through advocacy, outreach and education.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has already forced Frisco Arts to cancel various functions such as networking events at local restaurant patios and has suspended others like arts panel discussions and the popular “Ladies Who Launch” luncheons. However, one event that remains on schedule as of early August is the 2020 Frisco Arts Walk and Run on October 3.
As the pandemic continues to be a factor, that event could become completely virtual. “Everybody has to start thinking creatively during this time and (going) virtual has benefits,” Ms. Meinershagen said. “The benefit to a virtual run is there’s no limit to how many can run. We were physically limited to 500 on that course at Hall Park, but we could have 2,000 running our virtual run and that would be great. We would love to have 2,000 people supporting the cause. That just gives us more capacity to support our arts community.”
Whether the run remains in its standard form or goes virtual, the mission for Frisco Arts and community benefit remain the same. Either way, event participants will receive a t-shirt, finisher medal and a goody bag, which includes a water bottle.
“We’ve already got two venues willing to partner with us to have virtual performances, so we’ll have performances streamed live on our Facebook page. The whole thing is still going to be about raising awareness and funds for the arts,” Ms. Meinershagen said. “That is the most important part of the Frisco Arts Walk and Run.”
Under her leadership, during the past few years, Frisco Arts has successfully brought programs and events to town for the first time. Frisco Arts has invited musicians from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and internationally to perform at the city council chamber, Frisco Discovery Center, the Lincoln Experience Center, Verona Villa, Frisco Hall and even partnered with the Dallas Opera to simulcast an event at The Star.
Change is a word many equate with anxiety or even dread. However, that is not the case for Ms. Meinershagen or her organization, which is eagerly looking forward to shifting into a foundation. “I’m actually very excited about the change,” she said. “I think it’s exactly where we need to be. We didn’t know we were going to be here, but this is what we need to do. It's important work and I feel like we absolutely cannot let the arts die with the pandemic. It’s got to keep moving forward.”
One way in which Frisco Arts helps the local arts scene continue evolving is through its management of the city’s arts grant program. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the funds for this program were in jeopardy of being eliminated. However, on July 7 the city council voted to merely reduce the amount of funding for the program from $175,000 to $100,000.
“Though we are grateful to see the arts grant program was not eliminated, there still exists a shortfall of funds,” Ms. Meinershagen said. “Frisco Arts is ready to help fill in the gap to support our artists, organizations and arts patrons. The reality is, we need the arts more than ever. The arts will bring joy, inspiration and comfort through and after this pandemic.”
During the past decade-plus, as the Dallas Cowboys, Stars and FC Dallas have moved to town, Frisco has earned the moniker of “Sports City USA.” However, considering 70 percent of Frisco ISD students participate in the arts compared to only 30 percent taking part in athletics, it’s high time the local arts scene receives similar recognition.
This summer, Frisco Arts, a membership-based organization for its entire existence, shifts to a foundation, a move which will benefit the local arts scene. And with a passionate advocate in executive director Tammy Meinershagen, a longtime local resident and pianist and violinist herself, the future of the arts in Frisco appears brighter than ever before.
“It’s necessary we support our arts community and our arts patrons who want to stay within the boundaries of Frisco to find music, dance, theater and visual arts. We should have it,” she said.