14 Baltimore arts groups receive Bloomberg Philanthropies grants

Bloomberg Philanthropies has selected 14 arts and culture groups in Baltimore among recipients of grants made through the foundation’s Arts Innovation and Management program.

A combination of museums, theaters, studios and umbrella groups were selected to receive the grants in Baltimore. They’re part of about 200 groups nationwide selected to join the program, which seeks to bolster the organizational capacity and programming of small and midsize cultural groups.

Bloomberg Philanthropies plans to invest $43 million in its 2018 class of grantees, according to the organization.

Groups chosen in Baltimore include Make Studio, Station North Arts & Entertainment Inc., Baltimore Concert Opera, Arts Every Day, Single Carrot Theatre, Chesapeake Arts Center, Maryland Film Festival, Baltimore Clayworks, the Neighborhood Design Center, Chesapeake Shakespeare Co., the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the Creative Alliance, and Port Discovery Children’s Museum and Young Audiences/Arts for Learning.

The AIM program has assisted more than 500 arts nonprofits since it launched in 2011, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies. Other cities with arts organizations slated for grants this year include Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Denver; New Orleans; Pittsburgh and Washington.

The grants, which are typically equivalent to 10 percent of an organization’s operating budget, are awarded by invitation only. Bloomberg Philanthropies asked 15 Baltimore organizations to apply to the program in May. The groups invited had already participated in Capacity Building Baltimore, a program of the University of Maryland’s DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

Make Studio, an arts center in Hampden that provides studio programs for adults with disabilities, was one of them. Jill Scheibler, director of the 8-year-old studio, said the grant will help her group grow its capacity by adding full-time positions to support expanded programming and events. The group’s staff members are all part-time employees now, but Scheibler hopes funding and training from Bloomberg Philanthropies will help Make Studios transition at least a few of its staffers to full-time work.

“It’s going to be really I think formative for us over the next few years,” she said. “We’ve been gradually trying to move into a different operational structure.”

Single Carrot Theatre also hopes to address its structure and turnover. Spokeswoman Meghan Stanton said the organization, like many nonprofits, is plagued by burnout.

“There’s a chronic cycle of burnout, of over-worked, under-paid people where it’s not a sustainable living. We can’t offer competitive salaries ... so people get burned out,” Stanton said. “We really want to try to cut that cycle off.”

The theater hopes to work with Bloomberg Philanthropies to streamline its staffing so that employees are wearing fewer hats.

“Hopefully we’ll be on a track where staffing-wise, our staff more clearly reflects the amount of work that’s being done,” she said.

Meanwhile, Station North Arts & Entertainment plans to focus on ways to grow its fundraising and marketing, with the hope the grant program will help expand the capabilities of its one-woman office.

“This is coming at kind of a great time,” said Amelia Rambissoon, the nonprofit’s executive director and sole employee. “Any opportunity to learn about building organizational capacity to expand our bandwidth is really important and exciting.”

To date, Station North has only received local funding. Rambissoon is hopeful the AIM program will put Baltimore’s cultural organizations on the map for other national funding sources.

Jennifer Goold, executive director of the Neighborhood Design Center, expects the grant to give her organization the resources put more pieces of a 2017 strategic plan into practice than she’d anticipated when it was written. She hopes the program will allow her center to embark on a deep financial analysis to plot its growth for the next three to five years, as well as engage in robust marketing that highlights its Baltimore partners.

“This just really unleashes all of that,” Goold said.

Her center has a staff of about 15 people, with five in Baltimore and the rest in Prince George’s County. The Bloomberg Philanthropies grant will be targeted to the organization’s Baltimore office, though the strategic initiatives it supports will benefit the entire group.

Bloomberg has invested in Baltimore in the past. In 2013, businessman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the guiding force behind Bloomberg Philanthropies, gave the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health $300 million, its largest gift to date.

“This additional investment by Bloomberg Philanthropies in Baltimore is a further recognition of the tremendous talent, capability and potential that exists throughout our great city,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said of the AIM grants in a statement. “We could not be more grateful.”

Baltimore was also selected as one of 14 finalist cities for Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2018 Public Art Challenge, a program that uses art to support economies, address civic issues and foster collaboration between public and private groups. Baltimore could receive up to $1 million to support public art projects through that initiative.

smeehan@baltsun.com

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