So often we hear that donors will fund “arts education “or “outreach”, because those important components touch the lives of children, often economically disadvantaged youth. And it’s true – these programs should be essential to the mission of any non-profit arts organization.
But how often do we hear the contrary position: donors do not want to fund the art that happens on stage! Why is that? The performances, the “art”, actually has an even greater reach than our important education and outreach activities. That’s because most arts organizations sell more tickets to performances than the number of students who are touched by free education activities.
The truth is, the live performances provide the base from which all other activities spring from.
But….if funders do not support the art we produce on stage, our ballets, plays and concerts; our dancers, actors, musicians and designers, then we cannot create and produce the very art that makes the arts education activities possible. Absent the work on the stage…and this is very important – THERE WILL BE NO ARTS EDUCATION ACTIVITIES. THERE WILL BE NO OUTREACH.
So how do we communicate this key fact to our donors, more and more of whom would prefer to fund only educational activities?
Part of the problem may be that our funders see us as two different, distinct organizations. There is the one that produces the art on stage and the other one that creates activities for children. We have to demonstrate that they are related and that one flows from the other – that our education and outreach activities FLOW FROM the art on stage, not the other way around.
As public school budgets continue to face cutbacks, the arts are often affected and thus the performing and visual arts organizations in American fulfill a vital role by providing transformational experiences for millions of students each year. But we just have to keep reminding our donors over and over – ARTS EDUCATION ACTIVITIES ALL FLOW FROM THE WORK ON THE STAGE.
Arts education cannot function without the art.