Partners’ Making Homes for the Arts in Sacred Places is a program aimed at fostering successful partnerships between arts groups and congregations. We do this by maintaining a database of information on arts organizations and sacred places; providing tools such as training, documentation, and budget and legal assistance; and acting as matchmakers and facilitators for partnerships.
Through conversations with arts and faith communities, it is clear that most of their immediate needs center around space – either needing more or having too much – but this is just one of the assets at the core of these potential partnerships. Others include the prospect of increasing audience and stakeholder bases, collaborative fundraising, access to new funding sources, equipment sharing, and more.
The Problem and the Opportunity
Many urban faith communities – in particular, historic “main line” denominations – operate buildings with unused or underused space. Partners’ research in Philadelphia found that 64% of a sample of Center City sacred places had such space that also exhibits high flexibility for other uses. Moreover, 70% of congregations indicated a high degree of receptivity to working with arts groups as partners, and these congregations cited the need for growing their community stakeholder base as the chief value they wished to derive from partnership.
Indeed, many smaller arts organizations and artists are constantly in search of adequate, affordable space located where their audiences, buyers, and other supporters can access their work. Research by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance (GPCA) has revealed that about 70% or Philadelphia’s nearly 2,000 arts and cultural organizations are small or medium in size, operating with an annual budget less than $1 million. Next to personnel costs, space is the greatest cost for these organizations. And between 2005 and 2010, overall expenses for smaller companies rose 124%, a much higher rate of increase than their larger peers. These facts point to a great need for affordable space and other resources for smaller arts organizations.
Partners’ Solution and the AiSP Program
In response to the above basic needs, and more that were uncovered through our research, Partners designed and launched the Making Homes for the Arts in Sacred Places (AiSP) program in the fall of 2011. The program is envisioned to have four elements, specifically designed in response to the key findings of our research.
Implementation Phase I
- Training Program and Facilitation: Develop training program and Training Manual, and refine facilitation process through several case study projects.
- Management Staff and Database: Develop internal staff and working database of arts organizations and sacred places.
Implementation Phase II
- Rental and Partnership Subsidies: Raise funds for a small re-granting program to support partnership start-up costs and potentially also rental subsidies for occasional arts use of established sacred places.
- Small Capital Grants: Raise funds for a small re-granting program to support minor capital costs for space improvement and/or arts-related equipment and outfitting.