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Culture in the Balance: Mega fundraiser planned

photo by Joyce Kryszak and Tim Nabzdyk
Musicalfare Executive Director Randy Kramer and Artvoice Publisher Jamie Moses

By Joyce Kryszak


Buffalo, NY – When the Erie County executive cherry-picked ten cultural groups to receive funding you might have expected some backbiting among those who were left out. But instead of pitting arts groups against one another, it's brought them together.

The community is joining forces to raise money to keep the arts thriving. And one of those efforts is a massive fund raising campaign led by a powerful voice for the arts.

None of the neglected groups begrudged the so-called "big ten." They just got together to figure out what to do. An arts consortium known as the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance grew stronger and its voice got louder. Randy Kramer with Musicalfare is on the GBCA steering committee. He said there has been been a sea change.

"There's some great things happening with these people in this community... marshalling forces...and we're talking about people who haven't worked together in the past," said Kramer.

The GBCA is working closely with private foundations that have stepped up to replace some of the lost funding. But the Fund for the Arts doesn't have as much raised as what the county used to give out.

So, they asked the GBCA to help figure out which groups should get the roughly $400,000. Still no competition. Even though it meant less money for each of them, Kramer said the GBCA told them any group approved for funding last year - even if they didn't get it - should be on the list.

But one influential arts advocate didn't think that was inclusive enough - or was it enough money. Jamie Moses is publisher of Artvoice, the region's largest news weekly. On March 5, Artvoice will roll out, quite literally, a two-month long fundraising campaign for the arts.

An advertising blitz - complete with ads wrapped around metro buses and splashed across metro shelters - will unveil the campaign called the "Give for Greatness."

Moses said he is in Buffalo because of the arts scene. And he said he is not about to see it wither away.

"In the most successful cities I see, have exhilarating cultural lives. And the ones that are dying have no theatres, have feeble galleries, there's no dance companies - it's all part of the package of a dying city," said Moses.

Moses said a thriving arts community has to include all arts organizations - big, medium and small. And he said that includes the ones that have never been funded by the county. Moses said the county froze the application process, a few years ago, leaving many out in the cold.

His list includes 42 arts groups.

To get every one of the groups a piece of the pie, Moses said they had to think long-term and aim big. It will be an annual campaign. And the goal this year is a minimum of $600,000.

That is on top of the money raised by the Fund for the Arts, for a total goal of one million dollars. Moses said that is what it will take to get arts groups above a subsistence level - and bring them to greatness.

Moses said the campaign will bring big and small groups together offering two months of major fundraising events. For example, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Musicalfare will perform a concert together. And there will be dozens of other collaborative arts performances at the region's biggest and smallest venues.

Moses said ticket prices will be around five dollars, encouraging even those with the least means to give.

He said the campaign is modeled after successful campaigns led by alternative papers around the country. He said one in Portland tapped into a donor base that never previously existed and raised more than a million dollars the first year.

Kramer with the GBCA believes it is doable for Buffalo too.

Kramer and others with the GBCA are working with Moses to coordinate fundraising efforts. Although working independently, Moses said foundations are on board too with coordinating efforts.

The money raised by the Artvoice campaign in Buffalo will be thrown into the pot with the money being raised by the Fund for the Arts. Checks are expected to go out to arts groups by late spring.

Moses said it is no longer an arts funding crisis - it is a funding opportunity.

Beginning March 5, arts supporters can look for events to attend in the first annual "Give for Greatness" campaign. Events will be listed around town and in Artvoice. There also will be an online donation page.

Next week WBFO continues its "Culture in the Balance" series with a look at arts groups who serve niche communities.