Arts Forward, a new initiative designed to support and empower arts organizations and professionals in Chattanooga, will launch in August with support from the Benwood and Lyndhurst Foundations, along with the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.
Twelve local arts organizations will participate in Arts Forward, which aims to strengthen internal programming and operating capacity, explore new processes and approaches to their work and help organizations build greater engagement with one another and the Chattanooga community.
Selected via a competitive application process, the 12 organizations named to the program include:
Bessie Smith Cultural Center
Chattanooga Boys Choir
Chattanooga Theatre Centre
CoPAC, Barking Legs Theater
Glass House Collective
Hunter Museum of American Art
Scenic City Clay Arts
Sculpture Fields at Montague Park
Unity Performing Arts Foundation of Chattanooga
According to Lyndhurst Foundation Program Officer Kathleen Nolte, the Lyndhurst Foundation, Benwood Foundation and the Community Foundation came together to create the program with an eye to helping local arts organizations create greater resilience, adaptability and sustainability for the long term.
“Chattanooga has a growing, vibrant arts community, but many of our local arts organizations are small non-profits with limited resources and capacity,” Ms. Nolte said. “Arts Forward is an opportunity for organizations to come together to share ideas, address challenges and learn how to best leverage their resources for maximal impact.”
Slated to run through summer 2018, the year-long initiative is based on working processes developed by Arts Action Research, an arts consulting group based in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the North Carolina Arts Council’s statewide New Realities Program and similar consortium programs in the U.S and Canada. Nello McDaniel, founder and director of AAR, will serve as lead consultant for Arts Forward, with support from Anne Dunning, AAR principal associate. Both will provide workshop facilitation and one-on-one coaching.
The Arts Forward process is structured around a series of roundtable workshops focused on challenges faced by participating organizations, such as board development, audience relationships and fundraising. Participants will also engage in intense and consistent one-on-one consulting over the course of the year.
“For the past two years, the Benwood Foundation has been working with the Lyndhurst Foundation and the Community Foundation to explore ways to help strengthen, empower and sustain arts organizations in Chattanooga in step with our growing community,” said Kristy Huntley, program and financial officer for the Benwood Foundation. “Arts Forward is a direct response to many of the challenges local arts organizations are facing, including how to scale programming, create partnerships, and expand community engagement.”
In response to a request from the arts community, the Arts Forward workshops will be open to any arts professional in Chattanooga so that the initiative can benefit as many people and arts organizations as possible beyond the 12 participating organizations, Ms. Huntley added.
“The arts are central to the vitality of our community," said Maeghan Jones, CFGC, which is partnering with the Benwood and Lyndhurst Foundations to fund and facilitate the initiative. "They have the power to inspire change and connect communities of geography and interest. Supporting non-profit arts organizations and programs through Arts Forward is one of the many ways we can help ensure the arts thrive in our community.”
Participating organizations were notified of their acceptance into the program last week, and the first workshop will take place in mid-August. Each organization is expected to field participation from executive leadership and board members for the full duration of the program.