Our History

A vibrant Texas where the arts inspire excellence. 

The Texas Cultural Endowment Fund was established by the Texas Legislature to provide a permanent funding source for the cultural arts in Texas through the Texas Commission on the Arts.


The Texas Cultural Trust was established to increase the awareness and support for the arts in order to improve public education, stimulate economic growth, and raise matching funds for the Texas Cultural Endowment Fund.


The first Texas Medal of Arts Awards took place at Austin’s Paramount Theatre. This signature event celebrates Texans who have made powerful contributions to the arts — in Texas and around the world — through their creative talent or philanthropic support. The inaugural class included Texas Legends Willie Nelson, Debbie Allen, Tommy Lee Jones, Horton Foote, John Biggers, Santiago Jimenez, Jr., Flaco Jimenez, Neil Hess, Gilbert Zepeda, Wayne Bell, Jack S. Blanton, Sr., Meadows Foundation, SBC Communications, and Van Cliburn.


The first Class of Texas Young Masters is named. A joint program between the Trust and the Texas Commission on the Arts, the Texas Young Masters program helps children who might otherwise not have the opportunity to expand their unique talents in music, theatre, dance, visual arts, and the literary arts. The Texas Young Masters program nurtures Texas’ rising stars to become the legends of tomorrow.


The Texas Women for the Arts was founded, uniting the financial force of Texas women in funding arts and art education initiatives throughout the state. Since its inception, this giving circle has made a tremendous impact by awarding over $1.3 million to 63 arts organizations, impacting over three quarters of a million Texas children.


The Texas Cultural Trust commissioned an economic study that found an undeniable connection between support for the arts, a vibrant creative sector, and a strong economy. The study resulted in Create Texas, the strategic marketing and public relations campaign designed to promote the importance of the arts in educating our children and sustaining our vibrant Texas economy. Founders for the arts, an annual giving program, supported the Create Texas initiative. The result of these efforts manifested in the form of Adventures in the ARTS — a children’s chapter book, interactive CD-ROM, and website which support literacy and arts education statewide while addressing all visual arts TEKS requirements for grades 2-5.


The Texas Legislature, at the request of the Texas Cultural Trust and the Texas Commission on the Arts, dissolved the Texas Cultural Endowment Fund. The public dollars contributed to the fund went to the Texas Commission on the Arts to be distributed statewide through a formal grant process. The private dollars were transferred to the Texas Cultural Trust to be managed on behalf of the Texas Commission on the Arts. The $3.5 million fund is restricted for programs of Texas Commission on the Arts, primarily the Young Masters program. The Trust was appropriated $1 million dollars in stimulus funds from the Texas Legislature. The following programs were funded: Art and Digital Literacy Initiative; The Art of Economic Development; Cultural District Research; Adventures in the ARTS Book Distribution.


The Texas Cultural Trust received legislative appropriation for $1 mm/biennium for partnership with University of Texas at Austin College of Fine Arts to continue Art & Digital Literacy Initiative and Economic Research. The first ADL curriculum, Art and Media Communications I piloted in schools across Texas in the 2010-2011 school year. In addition, The Meadows Foundation gave a grant to the Trust to train teachers across the state on the Art and Media Communications I course, which led to the development of the Digital Pioneers Institute.


In addition to announcing the new Young Masters class at an event with Ray Benson and Bob Schneider in 2012, the Houston Endowment provided the Texas Cultural Trust with funding for a statewide Arts Advocacy Campaign. Development on the Music and Media Communications I curriculum completed and piloted in the 2012-13 school year and thus development of Theatre and Media Communications I began.


The Arts and Digital Literacy curricula was approved for Fine Arts Credit in the new Fine Arts TEKS by the State Board of Education in April of 2013 during Theatre and Media Communications I pilot year in Texas schools. Soon after, Dance and Media Communications I development began. The Texas Medal of Arts Awards, co-chaired by Houstonians Kelly Blanton and Marita Fairbanks, raised over $1.5 million and widespread media coverage. The Texas Commission on the Arts’ appropriation was increased 71% from the previous session and the TCA’s Sunset Bill passed and was signed by Governor Perry with no opposition. In addition, the Texas Legislature renewed the partnership between the Texas Cultural Trust and the University of Texas College of Fine Arts to expand the Arts & Digital Literacy Initiative and continue the economic research on the arts. The Trust’s premiere giving-program, Texas Women for the Arts, reached a record-setting $1 million in gifting grants to 40 organizations across the state, impacting half a million children.


The Texas Cultural Trust was inducted into the Kennedy Center Partners in Education program for its Arts & Digital Literacy Initiative which, in the same year, was granted $26,000 by the CH Foundation to incorporate the ADL curriculum into Lubbock ISD. Dance and Media Communications I piloted during the 2014-2015 school year while development on the Dance and Media Communications II curriculum commenced.


2015 was another exciting year for the Trust’s programs! Thanks to the new fine arts TEKS implemented by the State Board of Education, all Arts & Digital Literacy courses became available for fine arts credit. In accordance with the curricula’s increased accessibility, the Trust piloted the Arts & Digital Literacy Institute that summer. In response to launching this digitally integrated professional development for fine arts teachers, the Meadows Foundation gave a $62,000 matching-grant to support the new-and-improved 2016 Digital Pioneers Institute. The Texas Medal of Arts Awards, co-chaired by Gene Jones and Charlotte Jones Anderson, raised over $2 million for arts education and awareness in February and garnered 70,395,956 total media impressions, with a total media value of $288,224.46. The Texas Women for the Arts also granted over $260,000 to 26 arts organizations from across the state that April. During the 2015 84th Legislative session, the Texas Commission on the Arts’ (TCA) base budget sustained no cuts, and TCA was appropriated $5 million for Cultural Districts.


For the first time, the Trust increased Young Master grant amounts from $5,000 to $10,000, awarding $150,000 in funding to 15 of the top 8-11th grade artists in Texas. Thanks to the funding of Houston Endowment, the Trust launched its  two-year Art Can campaign, which has reached more than 22,743,100 Texans. The Trust did away with the Arts & Digital Literacy Initiative’s original website, txartandmedia.org, and launched ArtsDigLit.com. This website houses the Online Curricular Delivery System, a new hyper-connective interface for ADL teachers. This online platform was piloted at the 2016 Digital Pioneers Institute.


The Texas Cultural Trust successfully held its third annual Digital Pioneers Institute, professionally training 50 fine arts teachers on the Arts and Digital Literacy Initiative. This Institute was the Trust’s highest attended fine arts training to date and created new partnerships with Center for Educator Development in Fine Arts and supported by technology and training from OpenLabs. Texas Women for the Arts awarded $754,514 to 79 arts education programs and organizations across Texas over three years, marking the three-year span with the highest membership and grant-making to date. The Texas Medal of Arts Awards, co-chaired by Guillermo Nicolas and Peter Holt, raised over $1.8 million for arts education and awareness and garnered 137,320,155 total media impressions, with a total media value of $605,596.72.

Texas Cultural Trust