During the last several weeks, the topic of funding equity for Durham’s two May music festivals has been a very active one—and for good reason.
In early April, the City of of Durham approved $62,500 for community activities at Moogfest, which happens for the first time in Durham next month. The county subsequently matched those funds, citing economic development as the primary motivation. But The Art of Cool, a jazz-and-soul-centric festival that will present its third iteration in downtown Durham two weeks before Moogfest, felt that they’d been slighted, as their request for $20,000 from the city had been met with only $5,000. A previous request for county funding had been altogether rebuffed.
This evening, Durham city manager Tom Bonfield confirmed that the city has taken measures to fix the discrepancy, awarding an additional $20,000 to Art of Cool. Festival director Cicely Mitchell made the request when Moogfest made its pitch, which partially kickstarted a public debate that included allegations of racism and simple systematic misunderstanding.
Mitchell has expected the money to come through for two weeks but, until today, didn’t know if it would or if city council would vote on it before the event itself. “We are hearing very positive confirmations that we may receive the additional $20,000 that we requested from the City of Durham,” she said Tuesday. “However, we do not have a formal contract in our possession at this time.” As late as Monday night, council member Jillian Johnson said she expected the council to vote on it but did not know when it would happen.
Bonfield confirmed, though, that he had approved the amount and that no vote was required, which Mitchell and Johnson both only learned tonight.
“We are very pleased that the City of Durham is providing additional funds for Art of Cool Fest this year,” Mitchell said tonight. “We really appreciate the continued support.”
We’ll dissect this issue at length in next week’s print edition of the INDY.