You can lead City officials to culture, but you can’t make them fund it properly – except maybe with an impassioned but rational letter campaign.

These unfamiliar words of wisdom run through my surreal mind as I ponder the jeopardy the Bath House Cultural Center faces this summer and consider how neighborhood residents can try to save it.

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Here’s the dilemma. The Bath House is facing a 20 percent budget cut. Now, every City department is facing a cut in these hard times, and the Bath House is willing to take its fair share.

But the Center has taken bigger cuts the last few years than other art institutions. It operates on a bare-bones budget of $134,000 annually, which includes building maintenance, utilities, phones, office supplies and salaries for three staffers and program funding.

When you consider they serve about 40,000 people annually with 400 exhibitions and performances by more than 900 artists, our neighborhood is getting a lot of cultural bang for the bucks.

The 20 percent cut would mean losing all programming money and cutting two staff members to half-time. It is doubtful those two can remain under those conditions, and it is also doubtful that the City would replace them.

And the Center can’t be run by one person. So, it’s easy to see where this is heading if those in charge of funding decisions are not made aware of the Bath House’s rock and hard place.

We must help them realize our neighborhood’s solid support of the Center.

The Bath House has been around for 13 years. I have been on its board for about seven years and have seen the facility’s value to emerging artists, art groups and neighborhood residents. It would be a civic shame to cripple the Center with such deep cuts and put its future in danger.

And get this! One bureaucratic Philistine has even recommended closing it altogether, this one of only two City cultural centers. An epoxy upon him!

Art is essential for a successful society, and we in this part of town have a real gem here and at a heck of a bargain. Please join me and other supporters of the Bath House in sending postcards and letters to all of the City Council members, the City Manager and Assistant City Managers. Community support is the only way the Bath House can be kept out of hot water.

City Council Representatives are Mayor Steve Bartlett, Domingo Garcia, Robert Stimson, Donald Hicks, Chris Luna, Charlotte Mayes, Larry Duncan, Barbara Mallory, Sandra Crenshaw, Donna Halstead, Max Wells, Craig McDaniel, Glenn Box, Paul Fielding and Donna Blumer. Also, contact City Manager John Ware and Assistant City Managers Mary Suhm and A.C. Gonzalez.

Letters can be sent to City officials at:

City Hall

1500 Marilla

Dallas, TX 75201

Mildred Honore, acting director for the Office of Culture Affairs should also be contacted at 1925 Elm St., Suite 500, Dallas TX 75201.

For more information or to help, call the Bath House Cultural Center at 670-8749.