Terry Loftis, left, and his fiancé Jon Adams

In service to Dallas and its communities, Terry Loftis is the man

RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer


EDITOR’S NOTE: Black Tie Dinner honors Terry Loftis, the organization’s first Black co-chair, with a special recognition for Black History Month. See it here.

Terry Loftis’ daily schedule is not an envious one at all. For this interview, he pulled over and sat in his car for over an hour to talk about local arts, the LGBTQ community and sometimes his own personal life. And this was our scheduled time to talk before his next appointment.

A full schedule is his daily life and honestly, he seems pretty fine with that.

The Dallas Morning News profiled Loftis in 2020. The piece talked about how Loftis grew up in Oak Cliff and about his return to Dallas. And yet, there was still so much to talk about.

For this interview, Loftis touched on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) across the Dallas arts landscape. He explained the value of working within his various communities and setting an example. And we talked about the future and his vision for both the local arts scene and the philanthropic community, particularly focusing on LGBTQ issues.

His close friend Cordey Lash seemingly encompassed Loftis’ attributes in one sentence: “Whether health disparities, professional advancement, artist excellence or just bringing the best of the best together to benefit the community, Terry Loftis brings honor to the Dallas community through his purpose, compassion and integrity. [He is] truly one of the finest philanthropists I know,” Lash said.

Looking ahead, we stepped back to October 2021:

A formal affair
Last year’s Black Tie Dinner was a record-breaking effort for Loftis. He described it as nail-biting “due to the fact of being the first person of color to co-chair the event.”

The evening was a massive night at the downtown Sheraton. While BTD always draws a crowd, the pandemic-exhale seemed to give it some extra energy.

People were looking forward to getting back out and having a fancy, celebratory night at this fundraiser that serves a number of LGBTQ organizations in North Texas.

Terry Loftis, right, with his Black Tie co-chair Brad Pritchett and guest speaker Niecy Nash at the 2021 Black Tie Dinner

For Loftis and the rest of the board, though, there was a daunting amount of preparation.

“The excitement and the pressure of putting it together is not something I think the public is fully aware of,” Loftis said. “The bulk of it is led by a volunteer board. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun.”

The dinner was in its 40th year, and for Loftis, he said, it was a privilege and honor to serve as the event co-chair after spending some time on the BTD board.

But it also put him in the spotlight in a way that wasn’t entirely comfortable.

“Despite the press, I am by nature generally shy,” Loftis said. “I spend a lot of time in the background, but as my career progressed, I’ve needed to be more in the public. I had to suck it up and embrace it, but also, I am very proud of the work I do for Black Tie.”

The dinner was appropriately fabulous, but moving forward, there is more. in his eyes, to be done with the organization both in its outreach and in its makeup.

“I want us to make sure that every aspect of Black Tie as an organization looks like and represents the community we serve from our beneficiaries to our board and our community engagement,” he declared.

Loftis expounded on criticisms that the organization is too white and non-inclusive, as well as criticisms surrounding its transparency. As the senior co-chair, he has seen strides forward regarding BTD and diversity. The board is working on the planning process strategically that looks at the demographics of the dinner and expanding it.

This goes back to his point about representation.

“What are the things we need to let go of and change?” he asked. “We want to look at ourselves from the perspective of the bigger community. What can we do outside of just writing those checks to our beneficiaries.

“We are keenly looking at areas like fundraising, development, our board, our initiatives and programs that will help us be a true partner to those beneficiaries.”

In today’s societal dialogue, Loftis added that it has to be more than optics, more than just checking a box. That alone, he said, is offensive and wrong.

For him, it’s incumbent on the organization to advance its beneficiaries’ missions and their causes. But it’s not just Black Tie.

State of the arts
The Arts Community Alliance (TACA) is a longtime organization in Dallas that works to support area arts organizations through grants. Its proper mission is “to support excellence and impact in the arts through grant-making, capacity building, and thought leadership,” the organization’s mission statement declares.

Loftis joined the organization as its director in 2019.

“Terry has done an amazing job raising money for TACA, which is essentially benefitting the whole arts infrastructure of Dallas. He is a relationship builder and is also creative and entrepreneurial in finding ways to connect with funders and grantees,” said Kim Noltemy, Ross Perot president and CEO of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

The organization has been around for almost 60 years in service of Dallas’ arts, but these pandemic years really put TACA to the test. As companies and organizations closed in the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, they also lost any revenue that would help simply keep the organization afloat. TACA was going to be their buoy.

“It was utter insanity in those days,” Loftis said. But they persevered through it. Thanks to their efforts as well as vaccinations, the arts have been continuously coming back.

These days, though, Loftis is examining the arts through a different eye — or at least, one that’s not distracted as much by the pandemic.

“There is systemic racism in the cultural arts here in Dallas,” he said. “We looked at various institutions and their policies and who they are working with. I don’t think it’s intentional, but through EDI initiatives, it’s our job to put a spotlight on these and first be our most authentic selves to sort it out.”

This is his vision.

He sees an arts community that is woven together, all working toward the same goal of EDI.

“In this path forward, those negative attributes can be opportunities of acceptance and love,” Loftis said. “It’s imperative for us to encourage principles and practices that do not infringe on others. We have to show younger generations that we are advocating for equality and inclusion on all levels.”

He’s so board
TACA and Black Tie can take a lot of Loftis’ time, but why stop there?
Loftis is also on the board of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Arts District and Texans for the Arts. He is a member of the Dallas Assembly, and he has served as the board chair of Resource Center and on the boards of Friends of the Katy Trail, TITAS, USA Film Festival, The Dallas Way and Legacy.
Take it easy? Not this guy.
“I really didn’t set out to become involved so deeply in the community. It really just happened,” Loftis said. “I will say that Resource Center is probably the one Dallas nonprofit, other than TACA, that has my heart and soul.”
He’s volunteered with the organization for 20 years, and he finds it crucial to be steeped into the LGBTQ community in this way — or perhaps in his way.
When he came out, Loftis said, he didn’t see a large demographic of Blacks and Hispanics working within the community. He added that just not that long ago, the community didn’t quite understand trans issues.
We have to see us all as part of the family, he insisted.
“At the end of the day, I want to be of service and primarily in the community,” Loftis said. “These organizations are important to me, and supporting them is not just about the dollars raised but boots on the ground to help them do what they do better.”
But sometimes — amid all his work, board engagement and philanthropic responsibilities — he’s just concentrating on getting home at a decent time to his partner Jon.

Here come the grooms
On top of everything else, Loftis still has a wedding to plan. He’s still mum on that right now, just to maintain some privacy at this point. But on top of his work and volunteer duties, he and his fiancé are working on their special day.

Jon is a stylist for Nordstrom’s. The two have been together since the summer of 2019, and both have full work schedules. Loftis described a recent “regular” night for the two:

“I left the office about 4:30. Went home, went to the gym. We had dinner and spent the evening together,” he said. “That’s the anomaly! I’d say a normal night is one of us picking up dinner, depending on who gets home first.”

When he has the time, Loftis does try to decompress — if he’s not opening his laptop to get back to work or take a lengthy BTD board meeting. He enjoys reading, and he and Jon love entertaining and hanging out with their friends. Jon has to serve as the couple’s social planner sometimes.
“Most of the time, we have to have an advance plan, but spontaneous moments, if possible, I love,” Loftis said. In fact, he started the relationship when he was also joining TACA and a pandemic was on the horizon.

And he wasn’t even looking for a relationship.

“I wasn’t,” Loftis said. “I’m no spring chicken, but I’ve never dated someone who so easily integrated into this vortex of my existence, and he does it from a very individual perspective. He knows when and how to put me in my place, which very few people can do, and of the relationships I’ve been in, he is my equal.”

But it’s Jon’s sense of humor that really makes an impact: “He’s probably the most caring person I’ve ever met, but outside of that and finding him adorable, is his ability to crack me up. I love to laugh and if someone else can make me laugh, that’s huge.”

In perspective

While he’s technically working during this interview, perhaps Loftis is having a bit of downtime to just talk and reflect on the ideas and purposes and people he values. He lives this big life, and much of it is in service to others — the arts, the city, the community, his future husband.
When he looks inward, he’s simply grateful.

“I have been blessed exceedingly with an amazing life and interesting career. It has not been a boring existence,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to be in service and be genuine. These views are my own.

“If by virtue of who I am [I do something to] inspire someone to get involved and make a difference, or if my presence helps in some way, that’s the motivation. I think as I’m physically and mentally able, I will keep doing what I can until I’m gone.”