The Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund has awarded grants totaling $700,000 to 15 arts organizations through its Arts Recovery Initiative.
The winners and their amounts are Actor’s Express ($62,000), Atlanta Contemporary Art Center ($53,000), CORE ($20,000), Dad’s Garage ($70,000), Georgia Ensemble Theatre ($40,000), Horizon Theatre Company ($75,000), Hudgens Center for the Arts ($50,000), Madison Morgan Cultural Center ($60,000), Monroe Art Guild ($8,000), Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia ($50,000), Out of Hand Theater ($15,000), Synchronicity Theatre ($35,000), Theatre du Reve ($12,000), Theatrical Outfit ($75,000) and True Colors Theatre ($75,000).
The fund, which serves small and mid-sized arts organizations (only eight metro groups exceed the $2 million ceiling), launched the initiative in 2009 to help stabilize groups reeling from the tanking economy. Research suggested that many were as little as three months away from insolvency. The fund, which has distributed $4.1 million during the past four years, plans to award another $700,000 next year.
Speaking to a luncheon audience of 500 artists, business people, elected officials and nonprofit leaders, the fund’s executive director, Lisa Cremin, sounded a positive note. “Arts organizations are reinventing, collaborating and taking their future into their own hands,” Cremin said, citing the newly formed Atlanta Intown Theater Partnership, a consortium of five theaters that are raising funds collectively.
Guests saw the introduction of Kenny Blank, executive director of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, as incoming chair of the fund advisory board, as well as lively performances by local groups and irreverent running commentary by guys from Dad’s Garage — embodiments of the creative work the group had gathered to celebrate.
“Bright Lights,” the event’s moniker, was not without its shadows. Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner, despite hard evidence to the contrary, affirmed the county’s support of the arts. In an alternately rousing and terrifying speech, Ben Cameron, keynote speaker and arts program director of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, reminded the audience that relevance is a more serious problem than finances in an age when audiences are dwindling as they spend more and more time on their technology. He exhorted creative people to do what they do best and think creatively about adapting to and harnessing this new reality.
A large percentage of this year’s awardees are theater groups: 60 percent of the grants by number and 65 percent by dollars. The number is atypical: theater groups, which account for 40 to 50 percent of the area’s non-profit arts organizations, usually make up 41 percent of the grantees and receive 45 percent of the funds, according to program associate Josh Phillipson.
He attributed their prominence, and the higher than average showing of visual arts organizations — 23 percent of the number of 2012 grants against a 20-year average of 13 percent — to the number and strength of applications from those disciplines. But Phillipson also noted that diversity is a core value. “We also reflect on this breakdown each year and modify how we communicate and orient organizations such that we get a broader applicant pool next year.”