The Arts Partnership, as you may already know, is celebrating our 50th year in 2020. We had lots of ideas for how we were going celebrate this year, lots of plans of incorporating our golden anniversary into our existing events and creating some new ones, too. Alas, like everyone else in the world, those plans went right out the window with the rise of COVID-19.
While I am sad that we haven’t been able to truly celebrate this momentous milestone with the community, I actually have been delighted with how this global shutdown has provided the Board of Directors, my staff and me the opportunity to take some calculated risks, to be bold and to nimbly act to ensure we are taking care of our sector and keeping the arts top of mind in the Metro.
Perhaps the biggest and boldest move the Board of Directors unanimously made this spring was to waive the typical application process for our City Arts Partnership (CAP) grants. These are dollars given to The Arts Partnership from the Cities of Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo and granted out to Metro organizations making art through TAP.
***If you want to learn about the step-by-step process of receiving a CAP grant from TAP, continue reading here. Otherwise, skip to the asterisked paragraph
We take our privileged role of managing tax payer dollars to support local arts organizations seriously, and we are as transparent as possible so that there can be no question that the organizations that receive these grants are fiscally sound, adhering to the core tenants of being a nonprofit and effective organizations in our community.
Normally, this is a multi-step process that begins with mandatory meetings in February with our Director of Operations Tania Blanich and the leaders and grant writers of any nonprofit interested in applying for a CAP grant. Then the application is posted and applicants have the opportunity to receive feedback from Tania during the six-eight week application window. During this time, Tania thoughtfully assembles a committee of five community arts leaders, enthusiasts and artists. They are introduced to our grant system and protocols and are assigned a number of grants to be the active advocate for to the larger group while also reading all of the more than 30 applications.
The day of, Tania takes the panelists through the process and the first round is totally open to the public to hear the initial reactions from the panel about each grant. Audience members are not allowed to comment but are invited to leave a written explanation if they believe that their grant was misunderstood by anyone on the panel. These are reviewed before the next round of conversations.
Once the public is dismissed, Tania and other staff members begin to tally up initial points as gathered from a clear, succinct rubric, which is given to applicants in advance of the submission.
This process takes two to three more rounds to winnow down the final dollar amounts. There is clear protocol for each step of this process, which can take six-seven hours to complete.
Finally, the Board of Directors reviews the recommendations from the grant panelists and approves the amounts.
*** The goal was to make the CAP grant funds available as effortlessly and as quickly as possible. With a number of Metro foundations pulling their arts support and reallocating it to Covid-19 emergency crisis funds, we are, along with the North Dakota Council on the Arts, the only funding most of these groups are going to be able to count on this spring.
Therefore, the TAP Board of Directors approved a simplified grant-making process. The Board felt comfortable with a simplified process for this year, knowing that prior grant allocations were recommended to the TAP Board by outside peer-review panels comprised of arts professionals and arts advocates. The TAP Board agreed to the following:
If a GOS I or II organization didn’t apply for a grant in one of the past four years, their average was calculated using the three years in which they applied. If an organization applied for a grant but didn’t receive funding, the $0 was included in their average.
I am so thrilled by this vote from the Board of Directors as it shows real understanding of the need to responsibly and appropriately respond to our constituents in this period of incredible financial uncertainty. It also shows real leadership by recognizing that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
Actually, I can think of no finer way to celebrate our first 50 years and look ahead to the next 50 then with this decision and action. The Arts Partnership will be here long into the future because we understand the value of being nimble, and we are constantly looking at how to even better take care of the arts. We are truly living out our mission to cultivate the community through the arts, and I couldn’t be prouder to be here, doing this work, in this time, and I am so grateful to the Board, to my staff, to the arts sector and to the community for playing their incredibly important roles in ensure that the arts are alive and well in the Metro today and going forward.