Arts Council 101 – GFAC History II

Arts Council: A service agency established to foster the health and growth of arts and cultural programming within their defined service area. All disciplines of the arts are included: Music, Dance, Literature, Theater and Visual Arts.

Greetings! As you may have read, GFAC has been involved for the past few years in a development project called the BEST Funding Collaborative. BEST stands for Building Equity Sustainability and Trust. The BEST program is funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Ruth Mott Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and the United Way. The goal of the BEST project is to build the capacity of participating organizations and position them for growth. GFAC was the only arts organization in the pilot group of BEST. Over the past three years BEST has assisted us in evaluating ourselves, getting the evaluations of others, improving our technology, strategic planning and most recently assessing our capacity to grow. One of the recurring themes from our research is that most people know that GFAC exists and have a high opinion of us, however they don’t really know all that we do and they don’t understand our mission.

Many talks with members of the GFAC staff have lead to the creation of this column which began in the May 2006 issue and will appear for the next six months to a year. We want our membership to be well informed about GFAC. And we want you to be able to talk about us to others. We want you to be our ambassadors to the community. The only way you can help us with this is to be schooled in artscouncilology. Well, everyone is making up new words these days so I may as well join in the fun.

Understanding an organization begins with learning where it started. The first article, in the May 2006 issue, was an almost accurate brief history of the beginning years of Greater Flint Arts Council. This second part of the story will be recent history and is the part I know the most about as it includes the years I have been employed here. If you can fill in some of the missing history, or if we are not entirely accurate, please send a letter or email. Let the story continue. And then, out of nowhere a huge explosion was heard…(…just peaking your interest).

The second half of the year 1993 found Greater Flint Arts Council without a director. The GFAC Board of Trustees appointed one of their own, David Martin, as Interim Director and launched an employment search. Mr. Martin was a human resource consultant and in the months following he formalized many of the Arts Council’s policies and practices. After months of receiving and reviewing resumes, the GFAC Board hired Greg Fiedler as Executive Director and he took office on August 13, 1993. The GFAC offices were in the front of the Capitol Theater Building on East Second Street in downtown Flint.

Mr. Fiedler made his living in business, and had spent 17 years with Hamady Bros. Food Markets, Inc. His last position with Hamady was Manager of Human Resources and Training. He also had education in music and theater and was an experienced performer. He was well known in the arts community as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors for Flint Community Players 1991 to 1997. He had a love for musical theater and by the early 1990’s Greg had performed on all the stages of Genesee County.

Greg first joined GFAC as a member in 1978 when he returned from college in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was familiar with the Arts Council and their mission. At the time of his hiring there was one full time staff person, Lorinda Shepard who served as Administrative Assistant. There were several part time contracted staff: Trish Dillon, Re-granting Coordinator, Marianne Bernard, ARTSHARE Coordinator and Kerry Moore, City Arts Team Coordinator. These were the major programs of Greater Flint Arts Council at the time. ARSHARE and the City Arts Team were K-12 arts education programs which brought youth together with professional artists for learning experiences. GFAC re-granted funds for two programs at the time: Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Regional Re-granting and City of Flint State Equity Re-granting. GFAC represented Genesee, Shiawassee and Lapeer Counties for the MCACA Regional Re-granting program. Under this program, arts projects were funded throughout those three counties. The City of Flint received State Equity Funds annually and GFAC was awarded dollars to fund capital projects within the city limits.

Greg Fiedler immediately began working with the Arts Council Board and Staff to re-institute programming that had been suspended during the interim, increase patronage of existing programming and assessing the needs of the community for new programming.
Mr. Fiedler’s greatest challenges as a new director were: Marketing the Arts Council so the general public would be familiar with their name and programs, and stabilizing funding to alleviate the swings from feast to famine which had marked their history. GFAC signed with the Flint Executive Service Corps for Board Development and Strategic Planning.

Keep an eye out for the July issue of Where’s Art where the GFAC story will continue.

Greg Fiedler