To bolster community vibrancy and cultural life, five major arts funders have renewed support for Arts Midwest’s ArtsLab, a $1.9 million, multiyear venture. Support for the program is provided by The McKnight Foundation, F. R. Bigelow Foundation, Mardag Foundation, The Saint Paul Foundation, and Bush Foundation.

“Artists and the organizations that serve them are essential to the fabric of our communities,” said Kate Wolford, president of The McKnight Foundation. “ArtsLab has demonstrated its ability to extend the reach of artists and our arts and culture sector, and hence our quality of life in our region. We are very pleased to support our regional arts and culture community by enabling access to the leadership training, resources, and opportunities ArtsLab provides to help our artists succeed.”

ArtsLab was launched in 1999 as a pilot project undertaken collaboratively by six major funders seeking to learn better approaches to building leadership and management skills in community-based arts organizations. The initial project provided excellent learning in professional development training as well as in the value of collaborative funding by foundations sharing common interests. Building on the success of and knowledge gained during that project, five of the foundations renewed their support for the project in 2008.

During this second phase, ArtsLab offered training and consultation services to nine selected arts organizations in the metropolitan Minneapolis-Saint Paul area and seven in northwestern Minnesota. Like the first phase, the program was considered highly successful, and has been lauded for strengthening the skills and resiliency of Minnesota arts leaders and organizations, growing budgets, and fostering new community relationships.

“The ArtsLab experience had a significant, transforming effect on TU Dance,” says Uri Sands, Co-Artistic Director. “We have a remarkable new clarity about TU’s strategic direction. Our leadership team found new footing through this work—a new confidence in our ability to make TU Dance a sustainable organization. We’re excited to have opened our school—the realization of a long-term dream. We might have gotten there eventually, but it is through ArtsLab that this dream has unfolded as quickly as it has.”

Based on this success, we are pleased to announce that the five foundations have renewed their support for the program, which has shifted from independent management to a permanent program of Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest. Both Arts Midwest and the supporting foundations recognize a continued need in the arts sector for training on how to cultivate relationships, adapt to environmental changes, and adopt sustainable business practices. Both parties are also invested in the unique approach of the ArtsLab program—including its multi-year commitment to organizations and its blend of quarterly retreats, technical assistance, and modest grants.

“There has never been a more urgent need for capacity-building support for community based organizations than in the current economic climate,” said Ann Mulholland, Vice President of Grants and Program of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, which supports The Saint Paul Foundation, F. R. Bigelow Foundation and Mardag Foundation. “The learning that we have gained through our involvement in ArtsLab has been applied in other programs that our affiliate foundations support. It has been important to our affiliate foundations to be investors, collaborators and advisors in the growth and development of ArtsLab. We are excited to see it launch in its permanent home. “

ArtsLab is now initiating a two-year peer learning community program that will promote shared learning and strengthen the organizational infrastructures of 16 organizations. In addition to the peer learning, and with significant support from the Bush Foundation, ArtsLab will also launch an idea exchange—a professional affinity group—to gather the mentors, educators and leaders who support arts organizations in their leadership and management development.

“ArtsLab is a proven and powerful tool for developing courageous community leaders,” noted Catherine Jordan, Director for Advancing Solutions at the Bush Foundation. “We are excited about the opportunity to support ArtsLab in its work to connect and support leaders with new resources for facilitating community conversations that lead to change in their communities.”

ArtsLab will begin seeking applications for the peer learning communities March 1, 2012; applications will be due by April 13, 2012. ArtsLab will select eight organizations in each target region by summer 2012. Application for involvement in the professional affinity group will also be available March 1, 2012. All application information will be available on our website; Questions may also be directed to

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.


Leave a comment

Filed under ARTS

Any comments about this article?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s