Last year at The Arts Partnership, we implemented another touchpoint in our relationship with the nonprofit arts organizations that receive City Arts Partnership grants from us.
Now, in addition to pre-application meetings, a formal grant application and process and a final report, grantee arts leaders and a member of their board meet with a member of our board, our Director of Operations Tania Blanich, and me for an informal conversation about their year.
We spent the past two weeks meeting with our top 17 general operating support level I and II grantee arts organizations. The levels, based on budget size, were implemented three years ago after we conducted a significant review and revision of our grant programs.
These annual conversations were another piece of that revision. They’ve become important to our understanding of the successes and challenges for the arts and our ability to help solve them.
What did we learn this year? These organizations are feeling optimistic about their programming and growth. They’re serving an expanding and more diverse group of performers and audience members. And they’re implementing new programming to extend their significance in our community and beyond.
Whether that’s programming involving non-Western, European-influenced art, incorporating programs aimed at special needs audiences, creating bigger scholarship programs for at-risk performers or expanding their footprint, these organizations are embracing the growing community and addressing the needs to the best of their abilities.
What are the challenges? Each leader praised their current board, but what we need are more decision-makers and influencers from the business sector and beyond to serve on our boards to enact real change.
We need additional financial investment from a broader sector of the community. These organizations gratefully acknowledged the support from current individuals and businesses, but none of the programming they are doing or want to do comes without a cost, and they simply need more financial resources to get it done.
What’s my ask of you? If you have past board experience and a passion for the arts, or a specific type, reach out to the leader of the organizations making that kind of art and find out if you’d be a good fit for board or committee service.
We need visionaries to help our sector take great big leaps. If you’re an executive or business owner not currently supporting the arts, consider how important they are to your ability to attract and retain employees. Support the organizations producing work you enjoy through your business.
Incentivize your employees by purchasing blocks of tickets or engage with the arts to build corporate community. If you want to get involved but don’t know where to start, reach out to me, and we’ll figure it out together.
Successful businesses are that because they’re situated in successful communities —it’s a reciprocal relationship. Please, carefully consider how you can invest your time, your skills and your dollars. And encourage your employees to do the same.
If you do that, next year’s conversations will be even better, and the community, and likely your business, will be, too.
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and originally appeared in print on Monday, January 28, 2019.