Arts organizations need our support
If you’ve ever been backstage before a performance, you know the calm the audience sees is actually a facade. The real story in opening a show is what’s happening in whispers as performers attempt to keep the audience from hearing them do a final warm-up, run to grab a prop they realized they left in their dressing room, or finish a fight call. When everything goes right, those watching in hushed silence never know what it took for the stage manager to call places and the show to start. It’s the magic of live performance.
Capacity building for arts organizations is a little like the organized chaos backstage before a show. With our nation’s arts organizations focused on sharing their performances with external audiences, many of them have little time–and even fewer resources–to dedicate to strengthening their own operations. In support of thousands of arts organizations nationwide who are sharing their remarkable stories, often put together with little more than duct tape, a hot glue gun and determination, we are pleased to announce a new national partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and a renewed partnership for $150,000 with MetLife that makes pro bono resources available to arts organizations. Together we’re delivering more than a million dollars in pro bono consulting to arts organizations in the next year.
In our last three grant rounds Taproot has awarded 21 Service Grants to arts organizations. As these groups are all about telling stories, we wanted to share a few of theirs.
For instance, an up-and-coming theatre ensemble in New York City that engages its audiences in an ongoing dialogue about social issues received a Board Recruitment Service Grant to address their rapid growth in the past ten years and the necessary transition from a founding board to a governing board.
And a neighborhood theatre in Chicago needed to take a hard look at how to expand, having outgrown their current home but needing to remain loyal to the audiences that had made them an integral part of the neighborhood. We awarded them strategic planning services to help them assess their organization and make a smooth transition.
“Even if we could get access to talk with all of those people, the sheer man and brain power it would have taken to gather this information would have been completely impossible for us organizationally,” the grantee told us.
Arts organizations are among the first to face funding cuts in a recession, and combined with diminishing resources for programming, seeking dollars for capacity building can feel like a luxury. Pro bono service offers an obvious solution. Theatre Communications Group estimates that there are more than 20,000 arts organizations nationwide, forming a vital community network, and we are excited to expand our Service Grant program to more of these incredible organizations. We’re honored by our partnerships with the National Endowment for the Arts and MetLife and eager to take the next step in thinking how we can use pro bono solutions to support our arts communities. These are organizations who commit themselves to telling our stories; it’s time to think about how we can deliver our resources to help tell theirs. After all, without the stories, it’s just a dark and empty stage that leaves those of us in the audience waiting.
Elizabeth Schwan-Rosenwald is a Senior Manager Development & Strategic Partnerships at the Taproot Foundation.