Council building arts into daily life

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A new website features a community arts-and-cultural calendar for Greensboro and an inventory of local artists, arts organizations and public art.

Another new initiative is recruiting corporate employees to volunteer for arts groups, serve on their boards and help manage their projects.

Expected soon are the results of a study tracking the impact of the arts on the local economy, and a plan to help guide the structure, funding and staffing needed for public art, while two new awards will recognize arts educators and business support of the arts.

Playing a key role in all those efforts has been the United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro, which aims to champion and secure support for the arts, and build them into community life as a resource for everyone and a vehicle to help fuel the economy and meet community needs.

“Our strategic vision represents a whole new way of thinking about the arts,” says Jeanie Duncan, president and CEO of the United Arts Council.

The council recently completed its biggest annual fund drive ever, raising nearly $1.46 million and exceeding its goal by over $16,000, and has set a goal of $1.5 million for this year’s drive.

Chaired by Harry Wellons, a certified financial planner with Smith Barney, this year’s drive has enlisted more volunteers to solicit donors and will focus on securing more donors who give $1,000 or more, Duncan says.

The drive also aims to reach more workplaces and spread the message that the arts serve and add value to the community, she says.

The 2006 drive, which was chaired by Rob Kidwell, a lawyer at Smith Moore, received nearly $144,000 from 15 new donors who gave $5,000 or more, bringing to 45 the number of donors at that level.

Helping to raise $100,000 in gifts from new donors and bigger gifts from existing donors were $27,500 in matching funds from the Weaver Foundation, Cemala Foundation and Marion Stedman Covington Foundation.

The foundations will provide those matching dollars again if the 2007 drive can raise another $100,000 in new funds.

The 2006 drive also featured new efforts to solicit employees of professional firms and targeted calls for corporate support for the new arts web portal and volunteers-for-the-arts initiative.

Building on those efforts, the 2007 drive will field 110 volunteers to solicit donors, up from 85 in 2006 and among 300 volunteers overall working on the drive.

It also aims to increase by 20 percent the number of individual and corporate donors giving $1,000 or more, up from 141 donors who gave over $901,000 at that level in 2006.

At workplace campaigns at the 25 biggest companies in the drive, the United Arts Council also will be recruiting employees to volunteer with arts groups, and will be promoting a speakers bureau to coordinate people to talk about the arts to civic and business groups.

And its campaign message will promote the new arts portal,

Reflecting the council’s overall vision, Duncan says, its new awards, for arts educators and business supporters, are designed “to recognize the power of the arts in our every day.”

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