Moderated by Tom Sabulis
The Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund’s annual awards luncheon is Thursday Dec. 6 (metroatlantaartsfund.org) at the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead. The fund makes grants to small and midsized groups across the region. We asked director Lisa Cremin for her thoughts on the health of the local arts community.
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By Lisa Cremin
There is good cause for optimism about the arts in the Atlanta region. Mayor Reed has doubled the city’s modest arts and culture budget through the Office of Cultural Affairs. Gwinnett County now has ArtWorks! to promote the arts. Activity and philanthropy are emerging in new and exciting ways.
But while these are all great reasons to celebrate, I am talking about something different. New investors are recognizing that the arts make a place the place where people want to live. Take Louis Corrigan, who invests significant dollars in unlikely and delightful public interactions, seen in the neighborhoods, parks and shopping malls for which Atlanta is famous. These free events engage all types of individuals, including those who stumble upon them. They’re also a magnet for the “creatives” – the innovators our region needs to thrive in the new economy.
Last week, the Rauschenberg Foundation awarded three-year “seed” grants of $10,000 to five of Atlanta’s most adventuresome and driven arts groups. The recipients — gloATL, Dashboard Coop, Living Walls, Eyedrum and Lucky Penny — are entrepreneurs in the arts, primed for early-phase investors. Lodged locally but working globally, these groups are just doing it, incubated here and recognized internationally.
There are more bright lights. In March, the Metro Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition (MAAC) was incorporated into the Atlanta Regional Commission. That means our regional planning agency will now consider how arts and culture fit within its vision of a strong, sustainable region. In October, the Atlanta Theater Partnership was created with support from The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, bringing together five of Atlanta’s benchmark theaters – Horizon, Actor’s Express, Theatrical Outfit, 7 Stages and Atlanta Shakespeare – to collaboratively raise new funds and take new ownership of their financial future.
Metro Atlanta is home to several large, important arts institutions, as well as an unusually large number – more than 200 – of professional, small and midsized organizations. The Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund has been a critical advocate and investor for these smaller arts groups. The arts fund itself was a startup some 20 years ago, seeded by The Coca-Cola Company and nurtured by The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Early investors knew then what we know today; that diverse, daring and smaller yet professionalized arts organizations are the wellspring of “go to” communities throughout the region.
Since 1993 the arts fund has invested more than $10 million in grants and $950,000 in management consulting to provide nonprofit arts organizations with the resources and tools to strengthen their operations.
It has been a tough several years for arts organizations, as they have adjusted their business models in order to survive. Today, many are stronger, leaner, more creative and innovative. As we turn the corner to face a brighter future, let us individually and collectively champion the arts for a more sustainable, innovative and prosperous region.
Lisa Cremin is director of the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.