By Katharine DeShaw, USA Executive Director
Background: Elle Mahoney, a dear friend of mine, moved from Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale in 2004. A longtime arts lover, she quickly got connected to an organization called Funding Arts Broward (FAB!) and became a donor and an active member, attending arts events and activities in the community. Many arts groups were struggling with funding cuts from government and corporate sources in the early 2000s. In response, a small group of passionate individuals committed to supporting local arts organizations established FAB! in 2003. In just eight years FAB! has raised over $1.2 million and supported 30 organizations in Broward County through a competitive grant process. Recently I caught up with the founder of FAB!, Francie Bishop Good, who is also a generous supporter of United States Artists. Jodi Peck, another active member of FAB!, joined Francie and me for an illuminating conversation. Jodi chairs the board for the Trey McIntyre Project, a contemporary dance company based in Boise, ID; Trey received a USA Wynn Fellowship last December.
Kathie: What was the spark that created Funding Arts Broward (FAB!)?
Francie: I visited the Miami Art Museum in 2003 to see the Shirin Neshat exhibition and noticed that a volunteer group in Miami called Funding Arts Network (FAN http://www.fundingartsnetwork.org/) had underwritten it. I thought, “Wow! Look at what they have done!” FAN was founded by a group of lawyers in 1996 led by Debbie Hoffman. She generously gave us their template and, during many meetings, shared their experiences. Without their help, FAB! wouldn’t have happened.
In 2003, we called together good friends who care about the arts to start a similar group in Broward County. We wondered, “What if we had a 100 people give $1000 each what would that do for the arts here?” It was a moment when we were seeing government and corporate cutbacks in the arts. We wanted to do something for the community to help the arts because of this downturn. We started with about 10 to 12 volunteers, and over time it spread like a virus…a good one! Our mission was to support great arts programs and educate people about fantastic art in their own backyard. Founding member and current president Drazia Rubenstein has been with us since the beginning, and together we created an amazingly hardworking board.
Jodi: The spark for me? Francie! She and Erica Hartman are the ones that put the life into FAB! Their energy was endless at the beginning, and that’s what got me so excited. I knew it could not fail with such a dynamite team in place. I quickly came to love FAB! and their work supporting the arts and the people involved. As a newcomer to the community it really helped my social life, and many FAB! members like Francie have become dear friends.
F: And it’s gotten people who cared passionately about one area of the arts involved in new artistic disciplines.
K: Can you talk a bit about your membership?
F: We have about 120 members now. Everyone is an arts lover, and they come from diverse backgrounds. We’ve got all kinds of people involved with FAB! including artists, housewives, art historians, former dancers, executive directors of arts organizations, and more. Each makes a minimum annual gift of $1,000, and some do more, which we really appreciate. Our passionate volunteers run everything—we have no staff, which keeps people impressed.
J: It’s been a great networking organization for everyone. The programs keep people engaged. While some members rotate off because of various reasons, we replenish with new folks every year thanks to the hard work of our Membership Committee.
F: We host four big lunches annually in Fort Lauderdale, and then we do a lot of smaller gatherings to see exhibition openings, visit collections, attend performances, etc. in the three-county area. People can be as active as they want: some attend all of our events others just send in their gifts every year. The FAB! board meets once a month.
K: How does FAB! interact with its grantees?
J: I think we do tremendous job with the grants program through our screening teams, who read grants, go on-site visits, and follow up with our grantees. It’s been a great learning process for us all. About 35 people are active in site visits. A two-person team visits each arts organization that applies for funding. We have found that this is a great way to engage newcomers by getting them involved and invested with our grantees right away.
F: We believe that it is important to see the grantees on the ground. There is nothing like a site visit to appreciate and understand our impact on the arts for this community.
K: What are FAB!’s long range goals?
F: With help from the Knight Foundation (http://www.knightfoundation.org/) we are launching a program to fund the creation of new work in our community. To stimulate new giving, they recently made a grant to us of $150K, and we are required to match those funds with $150K. We just met the goal! These funds will support a handful of larger arts grants to a few organizations. We’ve brought in three outside judges to vet the applicants, and on May 11 we pick the winners.
J: In the long run, we also want to keep building our membership to help increase our funding and to spread the word. We also think it’s important to connect with the next generation, so we are working hard to bring in younger members.
F: Finally, we want everyone in Broward Country to appreciate the arts. We want them to understand how important the arts are to our humanity. And we want to keep giving away millions of dollars!
K: Could FAB! become a national model?
F: Yes! Absolutely!
J: It would be great for USA to help think about this kind of opportunity.
To learn more about FAB!, visit their website:
(Via: United States Artists)