Cultural Quarterly
Winter 2009
Volume XXII, Number 1
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Creative Partnerships:
A Win-Win for the Arts

By Holly Strawbridge

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Broward Center for the Perfoeming Arts
Broward Center for the Performing Arts

When arts organizations work together toward a common goal, magic happens. Precious resources are conserved, practical knowledge is transmitted and the number of people reached multiplies exponentially. That’s why arts partnerships in South Florida are flourishing. The combinations are often logical, sometimes surprising, but always beneficial in creative ways.

Dishing Up Drama in Sunrise
When Lily Mazurek was hired to manage the new theater in the City of Sunrise Civic Center a decade ago, the stage was empty.

“We were a mini-Broward Center that needed programming. I wanted to focus on local theater groups in order to support the community,” says the former art and drama teacher.

Almost immediately, her programming needs were solved by a call from Kris Coffelt, founder and artistic/executive director of the Curtain Call Playhouse. The touring company had plenty of talent and productions, but no theater. It was a match made in heaven. For 10 years, Curtain Call Playhouse has provided comedies, dramas and musicals to appreciative audiences in Sunrise’s spectacular facility.

The City of Sunrise was also able to take advantage of Curtain Call Playhouse’s dedication to drama education for children. Drama classes and workshops are held at the theater for residents ages 6 to 15 from Sunrise and surrounding communities.

“Kris does a wonderful job. She brings in professionals to teach special skills for performing, such as stage combat. It’s great fun, and I love to watch how kids bloom as they gain skills and confidence. It makes a huge difference in their self-esteem,” says Mazurek.

Bringing Art to West Broward

ArtServe Performance
Ashanti @ ArtServe

For 20 years, ArtServe has supported Broward artists and cultural groups. Its facility, located at 1350 E. Sunrise Boulevard, provides office space for arts organizations and space for workshops, rehearsals and art exhibions. ArtServe also operates a gift shop in the Main Library, where individual artists can collectively sell art.

Although ArtServe has become a fixture in the eastern end of Broward, county residents who rarely venture east of Andrews Avenue may not benefit from the organization and the artists it serves. Three years ago, challenged by its board to extend the organization’s reach, ArtServe partnered with the City of Tamarac to bring artists and performers to the city.  ArtServe now has a satellite office in Tamarac.

“The partnership came about because I knew Mayor Beth Talabisco. Neither of us had done anything like this before, but we worked out a plan, and it has been very successful,” says ArtServe president and chief executive officer Maureen Kohler.

Quarterly events including two art exhibits at Tamarac City Hall and two performances at the Tamarac Community Center on Commercial Boulevard at Pine Island Road were arranged. ArtServe contacted artists, prepared exhibitions and held opening events. For the performances, they contracted with artists and members in dance, music and jazz and provided marketing for the programs.

All events have been free to the public. Starting in 2009, artists will be invited to demonstrate their skills. The season will be highlighted by a day-long event on August 1, in which workshops will be held on a variety of arts such as African drumming and traditional Indian dance.
“This partnership has definitely been successful. We have reached a different audience in Tamarac, and it has given our organization and artists more visibility in the community,” says Kohler.

ArtServe has other successful partnerships in the cultural tourism arena including an upscale hotel for art exhibits which resulted in many sales of art to visitors from around the world. Although construction at the hotel has required the program to be put on hiatus, a new partnership begins in January 2009 with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.

“We are always looking for new opportunities,” says Kohler.

Teaching the Art of Self-Expression
Confident and capable, artists spill their innermost thoughts and feelings into their works using whatever media they choose. What better mentor for women who suffer from lack of self-esteem than female artists? This concept was the impetus for a partnership between the Girls’ Club and several Broward organizations that serve women and girls, including Women in Distress, the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center and PACE Center for Girls.

The Girls’ Club is a private foundation and alternative exhibition space highlighting women in contemporary art. Established in 2006 by local multimedia artist Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz, the Girls’ Club is uniquely positioned to expose the public to new media techniques and help them learn how to adapt these techniques for their own use.

“The goal of our partnerships is to build self-esteem in young women and girls. What a great opportunity to show their feelings in an unrestricted, open-ended, creative environment! It is all very positive,” says Good.

Themed Girls’ Club exhibits provide the foundation for eight-week courses. Participants work closely with Girls’ Club staff and visiting artists to learn techniques and produce their own works, which are displayed in an evening event at the end of the course.

Michelle Weinberg, director of the Girls’ Club and an artist herself, designs the program for women who have no experience with art.

“Because traditional skills such as drawing and painting could be intimidating, we employ new techniques such as camera-less photography using web images and scanners, or 16-mm film transferred to video. Our goal is to teach the women how to explore their personalities through the creative process. The projects have been tremendously successful in helping women rebuild their self-confidence,” Weinberg says.

Sharing a Wealth of Knowledge
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) is much more than a venue. The quasi-governmental organization is chock full of resources and talent, which it readily shares with other Broward arts organizations to help increase the number of people who take advantage of local cultural institutions.

Broward Center for the Performing Arts

Broward Center for the Performing Arts
-photo credit Rob Morrision

“Collaboration is an essential component of our mission. We serve the community by helping develop local performing arts organizations and leveraging our resources and infrastructure so that other groups do not have to reinvent the wheel,” says Jan Goodheart, director of public affairs.

The BCPA helps local productions grow through services provided to presenters at the facility. “Through our Arts Access Program, we offer them a small rent credit and marketing and technical support to help them become self-sufficient,” says Goodheart.

But one of the most valuable services is something possible only because the large performing arts center has a large and diverse database of ticket buyers.

“It can be challenging for focused organizations—for example, Brazilian, Jamaican and Indian cultural groups—to reach beyond their own audiences into the community at large. We work with these organizations to market their shows to people who have bought tickets to similar types of performances and may be more likely to attend the kind of concert they offer. This helps them expand their reach and develop new audiences,” says Goodheart.

BCPA also shares its expertise in programming, management and box office with local theaters, including the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center at Nova Southeastern University, the theater at Florida Atlantic University and the Miramar Cultural Center, and it runs Parker Playhouse. In addition, BCPA has provided ticketing services for large-scale exhibits staged by the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale and other presenters.

Externally, the BCPA pools valuable marketing and advertising dollars with a consortium of arts organizations in the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District to increase traffic to museums, concerts, hotels and restaurants. “If you are coming downtown to see Dora the Explorer at the Broward Center, we may suggest you also visit the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society or Stranahan House. The idea is to drive cultural tourism,” Goodheart explains.

Because interest in the performing arts is best cultivated at a young age, one of BCPA’s first partnerships and the longest lasting is with the Broward County School Board. Through their Student Enrichment in the Arts (SEAS) program, more than two million students have attended educational performances at the venue since it opened in 1991.

Creating a Future for Art
The arrangements mentioned in this article are only the tip of the cultural iceberg. These organizations, as well as others in Broward arts groups not discussed here, have other worthy relationships and are looking for new opportunities. Most are limited only by staffing and budget constraints.

Nevertheless, in times when sponsorship dollars are scarce, partnerships can help artists expand their audiences. As ArtServe’s Maureen Kohler explains: “The question we ask a potential new partner is, what do you want from a partnership? We can create a program or tweak an existing one. If it is done carefully, it will be a win-win situation for both of us.”


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