End of Multi-venue Cultural Facility Construction?

The Nonprofiteer reports that the Kresge Foundation has decided to cease providing support for the construction of new theatres.

The Nonprofiteer’s reaction seems to imply those who hadn’t jumped to build when everyone else did are being penalized while those with established facilities will continue to benefit under the new focus.

“Granting funds instead for renovation and repair means the new Kresge posture will benefit the arts groups that got while the getting was good (or, perhaps, have some other basis for grantworthiness, e.g. re-purposing of an historic building). But arts groups which have been thinking about building from scratch are now stuck contemplating Max Bialystock’s mantra: “He who hesitates is poor!”

Yes, inevitably those who received support in their capital campaigns may not find themselves the beneficiary of programmatic and capacity building support. This is a common story as the financial situation changes for everyone from governments to families. Entities who have a need at the right time get resources that others didn’t/won’t. (And Mom loved her best too! *sniffle*) Also, the way Kresge Foundation sees it, the operating environment is shifting in a direction that can not support new construction.

“Kresge was a critical player in the 20-year cultural facility building boom that swept the arts sector.” Carle continues. “But numerous signs suggest that the building boom is over, halted by a combination of the economic recession and the staggering challenges of running capital campaigns and then covering steadily rising fixed costs. Our new grantmaking strategy is designed to assist organizations in successfully making this transition and positioning themselves for long-term sustainability.”

Their focus now will be on “Institutional Capitalization, Artists’ Support Services and Arts and Community Building.” Renovation, repair and generating a building reserve funding can be applied for under the Facility Investments and Building Reserves section of the Institutional Capitalization area. It appears to be the only area one can apply for openly. Unsolicited applications for all other sections of Institutional Capitalization as well as the Artists’ Support Services and Arts and Community Building areas are not accepted.

They do leave the door open slightly to new construction projects: “On occasion, we will entertain applications for new construction associated with exemplary sustainability practices or those that embody key principles of urban and community planning to enhance the quality of life in a place.” So perhaps if you had a project to reclaim a portion of downtown storefronts for arts use as part of a revitalization project focused on creating a walkable neighborhood, you could have a decent shot at funding.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


2 thoughts on “End of Multi-venue Cultural Facility Construction?”

  1. This news hit a particular nerve this week for me. I was, in fact, in the process of preparing the “old” application/paperwork for Kresge when the news broke about the “new” funding priorities.

    The original application was a long shot, but with these new priorities, there was renewed hope. Or, so I thought.

    Though the non-profit I work for is in a good candidate for fiscal stability funding, we were immediately deemed in-eligible. (We are undertaking a capital campaign where one third of the campaign is for just this cause.)

    Though we own our facilities, because of the restrictions on the real estate, these assets actually worked against us.

    It turns out that we would need to have over $4.3 million in unrestricted assets just to be eligible to apply, i.e., enough to balance out the restricted assets to put our asset figure in the black.

    I do have to say that if we had $4.3 million in unrestricted assets, we probably wouldn’t need to apply for a fiscal stability grant.

    I would hope Kresge would re-consider their criteria to allow those that need fiscal stability help to actually be able to apply for it.

    • Patrick-

      This is interesting to hear. I would have thought they would have waited to change criteria after the deadline for old priorities projects had passed or at least grandfathered those applications in. I looked around for other responses to the news but mostly just found people mirroring the Kresge press release as a point of information. I appreciate your comment. Your situation, while regrettable, does help place their new priorities in a practical context.


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