Column: A dozen arts groups to share $1 million in grants

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on November 27, 2015

When the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund holds its annual luncheon on Dec. 3 at the InterContinental Buckhead Hotel, it will announce a total of $1 million in grants to 12 arts organizations.

The Arts Fund will be able to give away $1 million in unrestricted grants because of a recent $2.75 million gift from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation – one of the Robert W. Woodruff family of foundations. That’s the largest gift the Arts Fund has ever received.

“It doubles our annual giving capacity from our current $500,000 for our general unrestricted operating support grants,” said Lisa Cremin, director of the Arts Fund – which is part of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. “It gives us funds for three years to bring our annual grant capacity to $1 million.”

Cremin added that the Evans grant also will provide more funding for “Toolbox” management consulting packages over three years; financial support for an arts capitalization grant in 2017; and additional funds to support initiatives to help stabilize arts organizations.

It is not the first time that the Evans Foundation and the related Woodruff Foundation have given to the Arts Fund.

In fact, the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation provided the initial $700,000 grant as part of the $3 million campaign that established the Arts Fund in 1993. The Woodruff Foundation made a $1 million grant in 1999 to increase the Fund’s corpus for its permanent operating grants to arts organization.

And the Woodruff Foundation also gave $1.5 million to the Arts Fund to support the Atlanta Arts Recovery Initiative that provided additional multi-year support to arts organizations to help them weather the recession over three years.

In all, the Woodruff family of foundations has provided a total of $5.95 million to the Arts Fund since 1993.

To date, they are the largest donor to the Arts Fund since 1993, Cremin said, adding that the two foundations have helped the Arts Fund “grow incrementally since 1993, so we can serve arts organizations in the metro Atlanta region with innovative programs and substantial financial grants.”

The Arts Fund was established to help support small- and mid-sized cultural organizations that often were struggling to get significant community support because of the strength of the Woodruff Arts Center – which includes the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Alliance Theatre.

The idea was that Atlanta need strong arts organizations of all sizes so it could create a cultural eco-system where talent could be nurtured and developed locally.

“The arts are important to a vibrant, healthy Atlanta,” said Russ Hardin, president of both the Woodruff and Evans foundations. “The Arts Fund understands both the value and the challenges of small and medium-sized arts organizations. We are pleased to help the MAAF increase its support of those organizations over the next three years.”

Cremin said that over the years, the Arts Fund has been able to award a total of $11.8 million for 261 separate grants. Those grants have supported arts organizations in 10 metro Atlanta counties.

Also, the Arts Fund has invested another $1.1 million in its Toolbox program, which provides consulting services for professional development to improve the governance of arts organizations that receive that award.

The Atlanta Women’s Foundation

The 19th annual “Numbers Too Big To Ignore” luncheon put on by the Atlanta Women’s Foundation on Nov. 5 raised $550,000 for the organization’s program.

The message behind this year’s lunch was the mental health of women. The Foundation urged the 1,300 people present to donate at least $98 – the cost of a mental health screening.

In all, the money that was raised will go towards supporting the Foundation’s work on behalf of 320,000 women and girls living in poverty in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

Jane Pauley

Jane Pauley being interviewed by Jocelyn Dorsey at the Atlanta Women’s Foundation lunch (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“The support for Atlanta’s women and girls by the business and philanthropic community is overwhelming,” said Caroline Moise, a Foundation board member who chaired the luncheon committee. “We are grateful for the support of our corporate and individual donors and Atlanta’s community leaders in helping to make this year’s luncheon one of our most successful!”

The Foundation reported that one of the most consistently replicated findings in social science research has been the relationship between health and socioeconomic status and mental illness. Women in poverty experience stress, grief and depression without the resources or networks in place to support their mental health needs.

“We know that due to the ongoing effect of poverty, low-income women are twice as likely as women above the poverty line to suffer from mental illness,” said Kelly Dolan, executive director of the Foundation. “The daily struggle of economic insecurity and a lack of ability to see a way out of current circumstances is difficult enough – when you compound those circumstances with a debilitating mental illness, very often life feels hopeless.”

Jane Pauley, the award-winning journalist and author, was the keynote speaker. She gave a detailed account of her own experience with bipolar disorder.

Pauley emphasized the challenges she had with her mental health journey, and she is someone with means who was able to receive the best treatments available. By comparison, she alerted the audience how difficult a journey must be for all the women who live in poverty.

The Foundation also talked about its new “Promoting Women’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Project,” which was launched earlier this year. It is a two-year initiative that is being supported by a $500,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente of Georgia.

That grant will enable the Foundation to provide needed support to nonprofits providing mental health services.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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