Report from Alliance of Artists Communities Conference, Friday
Antrim County (ISLAND's home) is 97% white. So when the morning session was titled "Serving our Whole Community: From intention to application, approaching diversity within our organizations and our communities," I seriously considered taking the morning off to energize for the remainder of the weekend. But each experience at this conference has been so brain-stimulating that I decided to show up. I'm glad.
Morenga Hunt (Vice President of Education & Director of the Education Institute, North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center) came from a place of practice, not just theory. Many organizations spend a lot of time talking about diversity, but have a difficult time implementing effective programs. Morenga asked us to define diversity (race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, class, politics, religious/spiritual beliefs) and encourage us to bring our work to the communities we serve. Asking us to shift our thinking from cultural diversity to cultural democracy, Morenga's session was energetic and inspiring, even for those of us from areas that are not diverse.
Generating Earned Income, the late-morning session lead by Dorothy Randall (Art Omi) and Mark Masuoka (Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts), dealt with creative ways to create income that compliment an organization's programs while bringing in much-needed funds. Art Omi uses it's buildings as a retreat during its off-season, while Bemis generates earnings through art sales and related services (gallery, consulting, curatorial services, custom framing, crating and shipping, etc.). Although there were few ways that these specific examples could be applied to ISLAND's model, it was good insight into other's creative methods to generate dollars. As Dorothy said, after a brief description of stuffed French toast: "Never underestimate the importance of food." Amen.
Today's lunch was again spent in the Emerging Programs Affinity Group, and it was helpful to just sit and listen to this informal conversation about processing applications, raising money in rural communities, and partnering with universities and other organizations.
The Secrets to Successful Benefits & Special Events half-day seminar was led by Liz Page Associates and was part event-planning, part fundraiser training. Liz and and her partner, Amanda, swelled our brains. Because this was a four-hour session, I won't go into details here, but they covered the following: branding the event, planning and sponsorship, auctions, and program, production and creative elements. Don't be surprised if ISLAND develops an online auction!