Investments in the Arts Yield Happy Returns

Tri-Cities Opera photoFor arts organizations, revenues are rarely guaranteed. Ticket sales, memberships and contributions may swell one year and dry up the next, often for reasons that lie beyond an arts group’s control.

“We struggle for every dollar we bring in,” says Reed Smith, general director of the Tri-Cities Opera (TCO).

Over the past 15 years, the Community Foundation has helped to ease the struggle for many arts organizations that nourish the cultural life of our region.

In 1999, for example, a $2,000 grant helped TCO expand its Opera-Go-Round program, which brings professional performances into schools. A $5,000 grant in 2002 supported new costumes and sets for that program. In 2007 we gave $4,000 for a fire detection and alarm system to protect TCO’s building in Binghamton.

And in 2012, we provided $10,000 for costumes for TCO’s production of Il Trovatore. Besides using those costumes itself, TCO can earn money by renting them to other companies that want to stage the popular opera, Smith says.

Some arts groups have used our grants to improve communications with the public. That’s the case for the Broome County Arts Council (BCAC), which received $2,000 in 2007 to replace an inadequate telephone system and $2,700 in 2012 to create a more informative, better-looking website.

“These are relatively small grants,” says Sharon Ball, executive director of the BCAC. “But the value that they have brought to our development, and our efficiency and effectiveness as an organization, is hard to overstate.”

For the Binghamton Philharmonic, a $4,000 grant in 2011 provided a chance to do some test marketing outside its core area. Experimenting with radio, print and online ads in several markets in New York and northern Pennsylvania, staff discovered that advertising in Scranton would make a wise investment.

“We just don’t have the opportunity to try this kind of capacity-building marketing without grant support,” says Sandy Griffith, development director at the Philharmonic.

Two grants have made programs at the Tioga County Council on the Arts (TCCA) available to a wider audience. In 2002, we provided $5,000 to build a wheelchair ramp and remodel the TCCA’s restroom for accessibility. Another $3,800 in 2012 paid for a motorized lift on the stairs to the building’s lower level, where the TCCA hosts classes, meetings and art shows.

“It’s going to make a big difference in allowing all the people that come into the Arts Council to participate in our programs,” says Steve Cooper, TCCA’s board president.

The arts enrich our lives, and a region that is rich in donors who support local arts organizations is wealthy indeed.

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