- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) - Audiences can hear cymbals crash, watch curtains rise, see vivid brushstrokes and gaze at rare artifacts.

The sights and sounds of the arts and other cultural institutions often are associated with affluence and metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago or Indianapolis.

But those same opportunities can be had here in Wayne County, a community where about half of its residents don’t make a living wage, according to a report by the Indiana Association of United Ways.

That prompts the question: How do local arts and culture organizations continue to operate here?

The answer: They rely on a variety of funding sources to keep their doors open and offer programs.

And coming up with that all of that funding is a big effort.

Although many of the local groups do charge admission or sell tickets, that income only covers a fraction of their expenses.

Grants from local and regional foundations, donations, sponsorships, program ads, fundraising events and in-kind gifts help fund them.

One example of an organization trying to seek out new funding sources is the Wayne County Historical Museum. It has an annual budget of about $165,000, which is used to maintain 14 buildings, pay for two full-time and three part-time workers, and maintain its collections.

Jim Harlan, executive director of the museum, said his budget is about $15,000 less than it was 25 years ago and that doesn’t take into account inflation and the lower value of a dollar. Staffing has been reduced from the seven full-time workers of years past, and other expenses have been cut, such as regular Sunday hours, to operate in the black.

Harlan said his business background was a factor in his selection to lead the museum nine years ago. When he started, the museum was open six days a week for 10 months of the year. The museum traditionally closed to the public in January and February while staff worked on exhibits and projects.

Harlan said he tried to operate the museum seven days a week and stay open year-round, but he couldn’t afford all the staffing because it didn’t pay to be open for several hours and just draw one person.

Recently, the museum ended Sunday hours except for special events. He said many people don’t realize the museum is open on Mondays and that it doesn’t close in January and February.

Harlan says another challenge in drawing crowds is that people don’t realize the museum changes exhibits regularly, so he’ll get those in their 30s, 40s and 50s who haven’t been back since their fourth-grade field trip and are surprised it’s not all the same. Harlan said he relies on dedicated volunteers who help develop new exhibits that appeal to visitors.

Most historical museum visitors are those who discover it online, drive by on U.S. 40 or hear about it from others. Harlan said they marvel at all of Richmond’s architectural and cultural assets and wonder how they were built in a town this size. He then explains Richmond’s industrial heritage.

“People who do tourism and travel see what we have,” Harlan told the Palladium-Item (https://pinews.co/1Du9UMx ). “If you go to most communities, they don’t have these things. In our community, we have taken a lot of these things for granted.”

Harlan said about 10 percent of the museum’s funding, $18,000, comes from the Wayne County commissioners. The next biggest sources are admissions and memberships, but the big unknown is donations.

In years past, the museum received a lot of support from bequests, as attorneys and financial planners would encourage donations to community organizations, especially as they were helping those who had no heirs. But now as families scatter across the country, those community connections have decreased.

Even when finding funding is challenging, the museum still tackles projects it deems necessary for future success.

One project completed in 2014 was paving walking areas on the grounds to make them more handicapped accessible than gravel paths. Having a reception for World War II veterans, some of whom were on walkers, drove home that necessity. And a new parking lot, which received funding from local government, is helping book more rentals of the museum’s recently added building for receptions, meetings and other gatherings.

Collaboration and creativity are key for other local arts organizations as well.

“As a community with perhaps less resources than others, we have been resourceful in seeking out partnerships that have helped to sustain these organizations,” said Shaun Dingwerth, Richmond Art Museum’s executive director. “They are good examples of public-private partnerships.”

The art museum faces an extra challenge for funding because its admission has always been free.

“We’re very fortunate to live in a generous community,” Dingwerth said. “Local foundations are extremely supportive, and outside foundations see the value of the educational programs we are providing.”

Partnerships with other local groups help the organizations offer more than each can do alone.

For instance, Richmond Art Museum’s annual Art to Heart gala in conjunction with Reid Hospital has drawn donors interested in supporting health and art. The two groups split the proceeds. This year’s auction alone raised $44,000, which set a record.

“When we write grants, we try to find as many partners as possible because they are more appealing to funders,” Dingwerth said.

Dingwerth said the museum being housed in Richmond High School is a big reason why it can continue operating. It can use more money for programming instead of building and utility costs.

“The community saw the foresight as having arts as part of education,” Dingwerth said. “. We know in order to get people interested in arts, we must get them interested in a young age. If students are engaged in arts at an early age, they are more likely to be supporters later in life.”

On a similar note, Civic Hall Performing Arts Center’s facilities director, Jeff Thorne, said the non-profit Civic Hall Associates has a great partnership with RCS, which provides the auditorium, maintenance and most of the office staff salaries.

CHA offers the annual Proudly Presenting series featuring nationally touring concerts, dancers and theater performances as well as educational activities for youth.

“Trying to do a series without RCS would be impossible,” Thorne said. “. If we didn’t have sponsors, co-sponsors and grants, ticket prices would be a lot more than they are, maybe even double. It keeps them reasonable and we can bring high-quality professional acts to town that people can afford to see without driving to Dayton or Cincinnati or Indianapolis.”

Grants help Civic Hall Performing Arts Center offer tickets and educational programs to small student groups before each show. Students can hear touring performers, such as the father-son piano duo Ryan and Ryan on Feb. 7, who will discuss their careers and answer questions.

“Most wouldn’t be able to afford to see a major act, let alone talk with them,” Thorne said.

A grant from the Stamm Koechlein Family Foundation helps pay for the two daytime children’s shows offered as field trips. A multistate grant from Arts Midwest will help pay a portion of the Texas Tenors’ artist fee and bring a group of Richmond’s Life Skills students to the May concert.

A few of Civic Hall’s other funding sources include Wayne County Foundation, Indiana Arts Commission, endowments created by local residents and, this year, $5,955 in donations from patrons who gave beyond the price of their season tickets.

Richmond Symphony Orchestra also relies on grants, sponsors, donors and fundraising events to help supplement ticket prices.

The orchestra was founded in 1956 and proudly notes on its website that Richmond is one of the smallest communities (if not the smallest) to support a professional symphony orchestra for more than 50 consecutive years.

Many of RSO’s musicians live in Oxford, Cincinnati, Bloomington and other cities. They are presenting five regular season concerts this season at Civic Hall, with the final two concerts on March 7 and April 11.

Musicians also play at the RSO’s annual signature event fundraiser. This year’s event is called the Boogie Woogie Ball and takes place April 25 at Richmond Municipal Airport. The dinner-dance will celebrate the 70th anniversary of VE Day with a tribute to the armed forces. Those attending can swing dance to a big band. Reservations are being taken at www.rsoboogiewoogieball.com.

Donors also help fund educational programs such as the Orchestra Within an Orchestra and Young Artist Competition in hopes of encouraging students to pursue a musical career or at least increased appreciation for the arts. RSO has offered the annual competition almost from its beginning.

A couple years ago, RSO drastically reduced its ticket prices, aiming to add new audience members. Tickets for students in grades K-12 are now free. The goal is for audience members now paying less for tickets than in previous years to consider making a donation to the orchestra.

Dingwerth said non-profits are responding to residents’ economic struggles and are trying to provide free or low-cost programs. For instance, in February, the art museum is starting to offer free weekly art classes for youth on Thursdays until May. Classes also will be offered on the first Saturday each month.

The museum also is trying to offer popular programs to reach more residents, everything from being part of the MELTDOWN Winter Ice Festival to its own digital photography classes and Cork and Canvas, a relaxed Friday night arts program in which participants of all skill levels get step-by-step instruction to create a painting while socializing.

“We try to engage the community and provide activities they want to do,” Dingwerth said.

Museum attendance and program participation have been rising, and Dingwerth attributes that in part to the economic downturn prompting people to do more activities locally, find creative outlets and work with their hands.

“Our philosophy is that the arts should be accessible to everyone,” Dingwerth said.

Richmond Civic Theatre also stresses community involvement. The organization relies on an ever-changing large crew of volunteers to present plays, along with a couple paid staff members.

“We try to make sure we are affordable for the whole family,” said Bonnie Miller, RCT office manager.

Volunteers are sought for on- and off-stage roles for everything from set building and painting to costuming. They come from Wayne and surrounding counties.

“We’ve had people say we’re just as good as Broadway for the value,” Miller said.

In addition to assisting with individual productions, volunteers also help maintain the historic building at 10th and Main streets when possible.

“They take care of the place where they love to play,” Miller said.

Memberships and ticket sales are at least 80 percent of the theater’s income, Miller said. RCT has well more than 300 members who buy a flexible package of six tickets for the season.

Even though the theater has been a downtown institution for decades, RCT continues to work to draw new audience members.

“People wander in who’ve never been in before and they’re amazed and thrilled,” Miller said.

This year’s Wayne County Challenge Match brought in many new donors and also encouraged regular donors to contribute, she said.

Sponsors also have stepped up for individual shows or an entire production. One example is Reid Hospital providing tickets for its volunteers to see the 2014 RCT Christmas production. RCT also receives a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission about every other year.

RCT kicked off the 2014-2015 season by offering “Shrek the Musical” for its 500th production, which was “fantastic” for drawing in new audiences, Miller said. She said she thinks the popularity of “Shrek” has boosted this season’s ticket sales.

Stage One Youth Theatre, a program of RCT, also helps cultivate the next generation of actors and audiences. Families step up to help with the productions their children are in, and then turn into donors and volunteers for the theater as a whole, Miller said. Some Stage One youth are now grown and perform in Main Stage shows.

In-kind donations or loans for items such as furniture, props or costumes also helps keep costs lower. Miller said antique malls, furniture stores and the Lamplight Inn at the Leland have been very helpful.

“They’re great about letting us borrow furniture and carry it down the street,” Miller said.

___

Information from: Palladium-Item, https://www.pal-item.com


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