Arts Council 101 – GFAC History VI

Definition: 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! For the past few years GFAC has been involved in a capacity building program called BEST (Building Equity Sustainability and Trust). BEST has assisted us in evaluating ourselves, allowing others to evaluate us, improving our technology, strategic planning and assessing our capacity to grow.

One of the recurring themes from our research is that most people have a high opinion of GFAC, but they do not fully understand our mission. We have created this column to educate our members and others who may read this publication, so you may be our ambassadors.

“The story continues…we last found skippy and his entourage searching for the pass that would lead them through the mountain range and hopefully on the path home…”

It is the responsibility of an Arts Council to respond to the emerging needs of the community. In the early 1990’s GFAC strategic planners identified four areas where arts programming and support were needed. Some re-affirmed those identified at the Where’s Art Conferences a decade earlier. These areas would become the recipe for the next decade of successful programming for GFAC. They continue to be a vital part of program planning today.

1) Support for Local Artists
2) Support for Local Arts and Cultural Agencies
3) Arts Education
4) Marketing

This month I will continue to break down each of the 4 areas shown above and relating which GFAC services and events fit within them.

2) Support for Local Arts and Cultural Agencies.

Throughout Genesee County there are close to 100 arts and cultural agencies. They vary in size and discipline. Their needs are as varied as their programs. Some GFAC programs meet the needs of many of these agencies. However, many of them have unique needs which must be addressed in a fashion unique to them.

All arts and cultural agencies have the need to communicate their programs to the public. They do this through word-of-mouth, marketing and advertising. Most share their audiences with other arts and cultural agencies (or groups). Some of our efforts to enhance publicity for all the agencies are broad. GFAC publishes a monthly newsletter called “Where’s Art” which includes programs and projects produced by agencies throughout the greater Flint area. The GFAC website, and the GFAC Facebook Page , are also dedicated for the purpose of raising the consciousness of the general public to be more aware of the vast offerings throughout this region. We also have more focused programs. The Parade of Festivals program focuses on marketing and advertising the 20 festivals which take place in and around downtown Flint May through September annually.

All agencies share a need to be financially supported. Although we constantly struggle with this issue right here at GFAC, we also reach out and do what we can to help other agencies and groups. As the Regional Re-granter for Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, GFAC is able to award in the neighborhood of 20 “mini-grants” annually of up to $4,000 for arts and cultural projects in Genesee and Lapeer Counties. The Parade of Festivals program, funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, allows GFAC to give support to the development and maintenance of new festivals. In 2006, through the Community Cultural Planning project, funded by the Ruth Mott Foundation, GFAC was able to offer nineteen grants to neighborhood based arts and cultural projects. GFAC acts as a local re-granter, securing funding for projects produced by agencies whose budgets do not allow them to accept grants. We also work to secure funds for agencies who are not solvent, whose mission is needed in the community. GFAC seeks resources which will give them time to re-organize and become financially viable again. In 2006 we received a grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation to help the Buckham Alley Theater in their re-organization. We also watch for opportunities to improve government funding to our region. In 1998, GFAC brought arts leaders together for a seminar which resulted in more local agencies receiving funding from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Three of those agencies, Flint Cultural Center Corporation, Flint Institute of Music and Flint Institute of Arts were able to achieve “anchor” status making them eligible for up to 10% of their budgets annually. GFAC also partners with other agencies to help raise funds, for example the Cool City Art Auction, where multiple arts/cultural agencies join us to create a riotous roving silent auction which benefits all the agencies.

In the next issue of Where’s Art I will continue to talk about the many ways GFAC has helped local groups in the past and how we continue to help foster the growth of arts and cultural programming by assisting others.

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

Greg Fiedler