By Michael Granberry
Terry D. Loftis, whose fundraising prowess helped revitalize The Arts Community Alliance, even during the depths of a global pandemic, is leaving TACA for the No. 2 position at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where he will be “chief advancement and revenue officer.”
Loftis will report to Kim Noltemy, the president and CEO of the symphony, who, along with Cece Smith, chair of the Dallas Symphony Association Board of Governors, announced the hiring Friday morning.
Loftis will begin his new job Dec. 1.
As Loftis shared with us in a profile in The Dallas Morning News in the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, he knew poverty and bullying as a young Black man growing up in Dallas, thus making his statement as a rainmaker for the arts in Dallas all the more improbable.
Soon after taking the TACA job, Loftis marveled at a text from his friend, Veletta Lill, who provoked what he called a laugh-out-loud moment.
As a former councilwoman who once served as executive director of the Dallas Arts District, Lill was the first to approach Loftis about heading up TACA before he took the job. Since he took the job three years ago, well, things have changed a bit.
“I know when I called you about this job,” Lill began, “I said nothing about a global pandemic, economic collapse or a collective convulsing over 400 years of systemic racism.”
The natty dresser who loves bow ties and a cool pair of shades had given up a high-paying corporate job in New York City. Returning to his native Dallas meant taking a pay cut and heading up a nonprofit arts company whose sole purpose is to ask other people for money.
In three years, he turned TACA around and during a crisis. And now, a new challenge.
Reached on Thursday for an interview, he said, “When the [DSO] position came up, it was recommended to me by some folks in the community and then some people internal to the DSO. And then I took a look at the opportunity, the job description.”
He said he liked it because it meant working with Noltemy, about whom he said, “She and I have been colleagues and friends since before my time at TACA.”
He praised the symphony CEO for having launched “some unique and innovative initiatives beyond the presentation of classical music with the symphony. Her outreach program in the community, for one, has been stellar.”
Beyond that, he liked the fact that the position matched his “skill set,” in particular how it amplifies his fundraising and marketing talents.
“It was not an easy decision, because I loved what I was doing at TACA,” he said.
But he also loved doing it “on a larger scale, even though it’s one institution. It’s an opportunity to take what the DSO is doing and make it even more expansive” with an even greater focus on development and marketing.
“It’s a unique opportunity to move an organization forward, to make an impact within the community, and that,” he said, “is what drew me to it.”
When it comes to TACA, Loftis drew widespread praise for having made, to use the cliché cited often during the pandemic, lemonade out of lemons.
“My goal coming into TACA three years ago was first to make it financially solid. Two was to make it relevant. And three, which was probably more important than the first two, was to be able to example to our donors the impact that their money has across the diverse ecosystem of the arts in Dallas, supported by TACA.
“I want every donor that loves opera to keep giving to the opera, of visual art to keep giving to those organizations,” he said.
But, Loftis said, the thing he’s proudest of is how, during his tenure, the money TACA generated was broadened in ways the 55-year-old company had never seen before.
He created pop-up grants that helped individual arts companies cope with the economic anxiety of a crushing pandemic. And with the help of two board members in particular, who had the idea, he extended gift-giving to individual artists for the first time ever.
“We took that and ran with it,” he said, noting that when a pop-up grant was given to an individual company, a bonus for an individual artist went with it, “thereby infusing money directly into the hands of individual artists.”
When Loftis arrived at TACA in October 2019, the company was courting a deficit. But by the time the pandemic-enforced lockdown began in March 2020, he had steered TACA from the red into the black.
“I have gotten to know Terry during my time here in Dallas, and I am thrilled that he will be joining the DSO,” Noltemy said in a statement. “With his incredible background in both fundraising and marketing, I know he will be a valuable asset to the organization.”
“Terry has been responsible for significant growth for TACA during his tenure as leader of our organization,” said Michael Meadows, the TACA chairman. “His leadership and conception of new programming at an especially critical time provided a tremendous boost to arts organizations in our city. On behalf of our board, I wish him well in his new role.”
Before TACA, Loftis worked for 25 years in the advertising and marketing sector. He served as vice president of the Broadway Strategic Return Fund in New York, where BSRF co-produced two Tony Award-winning productions, Once on This Island and Hadestown. In addition, he co-produced two other shows, Bandstand and The Visit.
Born in Dallas, he graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and now serves on the board of the Black Tie Dinner charity, the Dallas Arts District and Texans for the Arts. He also sits on the President’s Council of the Advisory Board of Booker T. Washington.
Arts Access is a partnership between The Dallas Morning News and KERA that expands local arts, music and culture coverage through the lens of access and equity.
This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.