Arts executives will get skills training

April 27, 2000|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,SUN STAFF

Four mid-sized Baltimore art organizations -- Fells Point Creative Alliance, Everyman Theatre, Baltimore Choral Arts Society and Young Audiences of Maryland -- will participate in a program to teach management skills to arts executives.

Run by the National Arts Stabilization, a nonprofit management group based in Baltimore, the program is designed to strengthen participants' ability to raise money, manage their finances and set long-term goals. The NAS also operates stabilization projects in Arizona, Washington state and Ohio.

The management group sought to include a mix of arts groups -- musical, performing arts and visual -- from a variety of locations.

"We looked for organizations who are at a stage that will allow its board and staff to make effective use of the help we give," said Neal D. Borden, chairman of the Baltimore Arts Stabilization Committee. "While we give money, we don't think that is the most important thing. The training is."

Over three years, administrators at the four participating institutions will receive technical assistance and will attend workshops on management skills. They will be rewarded for good behavior: Each organization may earn a grant of as much as $50,000 by meeting financial standards set by the NAS. Each participating institution also is eligible for an additional $10,000 grant to be used for informational technology improvements.

"We're ecstatic. We'll gain expertise that will help us plan our growth and development," says Margaret Footner, executive director of the Fells Point Creative Alliance, a community based artists' organization. "We've grown at a hugely rapid rate in our five-year history, and we've actually slowed down our growth this year to focus on planning."

The new project represents the third round of initiatives sponsored by NAS in Baltimore. The first was launched in 1991, when the NAS began working with six large Baltimore arts institutions: Baltimore Museum of Art; the Baltimore Opera Company; the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Center Stage; the Walters Art Gallery; and Maryland Institute, College of Art.

Between 1991 and 1998, the six original institutions increased their total working capital by $9.7 million, according to the NAS. The arts groups also increased the amounts raised as operating grants and gifts by 67 percent, and earned income -- for example, money made through ticket sales, admissions or gift shop sales -- increased by 92 percent.

In June 1999, the NAS expanded its programs to include four mid-sized organizations: Baltimore Chamber Orchestra; Baltimore Clayworks; The Contemporary Museum; and the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Culture Center. To qualify as mid-sized institutions, the organizations must have a consistent program schedule, an annual operating budget of $200,000, two full-time staff members and an active board of trustees with at least five members.

"We want to come away with stronger arts organizations both managerially and financially that are better able to focus on long-term planning and the artistic product," says Nancy Sasser, NAS president. "We think we've done that in Baltimore."

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