By Gary Steuer, President & CEO, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation
While 2017 is well underway, I wanted to take this opportunity to step back and reflect a bit. Private foundations are usually fairly consistent in their programs and activities from year to year, but for the past few years it seems like each year has brought something new and exciting at Bonfils-Stanton Foundation.
Perhaps this is the “new normal” given the rapid pace of change in our world and the commitment of foundations to be nimble and responsive. Let’s take a look at a few 2016 highlights:
In 2016, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation awarded 55 grants totaling just over $2.9 million through our Community Grants program. A complete grant list can be found on our website.
We continued our efforts to balance support for established arts groups, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation believes are important to our community, added a few new and emerging organizations, as well as supported exciting innovative cultural projects.
Some specific grant highlights from the past year include:
- We provided significantly enhanced support for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company to increase their management and revenue-generating capacity.
- We invested in an exciting new capital project at Su Teatro that will expand their programming space and deepen community engagement.
- We supported Black Cube’s “museum without walls” for a project at Market and 16th streets by the Mexican artist duo known as Sangree.
- We were pleased to contribute to the final phase of the Denver Botanic Garden’s Flourish campaign with a capital grant for the new Center for Science, Art and Education, and the first formal art gallery space for the Garden’s art programs.
- We supported Supernova, the first comprehensive digital art and animation festival in Denver.
- We awarded a grant to support the National Poetry Slam that will take place in Denver on August 2017. Denver was selected as an anchor city to host this exciting showcase and national championship tournament every five years.
Arts in Society
As a Foundation, we experienced many firsts through the development and execution of a new grantmaking program – Arts in Society. This unique and collaborative project is the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation’s response to the growing movement of artists and arts organizations using their capacity and the power of art to foster community dialogue and positive societal change. It is the first time the Foundation has offered a grant program with its own application and deadline; the first time we have formally collaborated with other funders to jointly fund a grant program; the first time we have used an outside entity to administer a grant program for us (RedLine); and it is also the first time we have used an outside advisory panel (we have long used panels for our Livingston Fellowship Program and our Awards Program, but never for grantmaking). We committed $400,000 to this two-year project. This was matched by Hemera Foundation, bringing the available funds to $800,000 and then Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) joined the partnership with $200,000, bringing the total grant funding to $1 million for the two-year pilot program. Learn more about Arts in Society now.
In our first year, the program received 253 letters of intent, which was narrowed to 49 applicants by a panel consisting of local and national arts leaders. From this final pool of applicants, we hope to award about 15-20 grants. The funded projects will be announced on April 20, 2017. We are eager to see how these projects will create an impact throughout the state.
Diversity Initiative: In 2015 the Foundation commissioned Donna Walker-Kuhn, a leading expert in building more diverse and equitable arts organizations, to assess the state of the work of our local arts organizations in building diverse audiences and fully serving our community. This report was shared with the community, and in 2016 led to the development of an Equity Working Group, made up of arts leaders in the community seeking to advance an equity agenda within their organizations and the community. This work is ongoing.
Similarly, our Livingston Fellows have been addressing the issue of equity in their work, and recently convened a lunch gathering, using a “potluck” format to engage the food of each Fellow’s culture as a trigger for a larger discussion around race and equity. A spoken word artist also helped jump start the dialogue.
Shared Cultural Space: In response to interest in shared space for arts, culture and creative economy organizations as well as concerns expressed with the affordability and availability of space for nonprofit arts groups in the community, we convened arts groups, city officials and other interested parties to look for solutions to the space challenges these organizations face. As a result of these initial conversations, we commissioned a study to better understand the space needs of nonprofit arts organizations in Denver. The study found (not surprisingly) a strong interest in shared space and the need for affordable space for a variety of purposes (administrative, rehearsal, performance, classroom).
Another outcome of the study was to help create an inventory of these needs, location preferences, and what level of cost the organizations could bear. We will continue to serve as a convener around this conversation.
Creative Alliance: It became clear after the City of Denver adopted its cultural plan Imagine 2020 in 2013 and after the SCFD reauthorization process, that there were certain gaps in our community’s infrastructure for cultural advocacy, policy, research, communications and other areas. There are functions not being filled by our city cultural agencies or other nonprofit service organizations that seemed to be needed, especially at the regional level. The Foundation, with support from both Denver Arts & Venues and Boulder’s Office of Arts and Culture, has commissioned a feasibility study on the creation of a regional creative alliance, being completed by Corona Insights. This study, still underway, is looking at other models around the country, what the specific needs and priorities are in our community, and whether components of what is needed are already being delivered by an existing entity.
The spring not only brought our 31st Annual Awards Celebration but ushered in the first award program where all categories were focused entirely on the arts.
Our honoree for the Artist category was renowned architect Curtis Fentress, whose work has changed our region, and the world – and is perhaps best known for the now iconic Denver International Airport terminal.
Our Community Service honoree was Merle Chambers, whose philanthropic support for the arts (and many other areas) has made a profound difference in our community – of particular note is her lead support of the Kirkland Museum, and its new Golden Triangle location.
Our Science, Medicine and the Arts award went to the Children’s Hospital Colorado in recognition of its many arts programs on the Anschutz Medical Campus. From the integration of art into the fabric of their facility, to the operation of a hospital art gallery, to their Ponzio Center for Creative Arts Therapy, the hospital leads the way in incorporating the arts into their mission of treating sick kids and also serving their families. As always, it was a beautiful and inspiring event for our community. Learn additional information on our 2016 Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Honorees.
Livingston Fellowship Program
In 2016 we broke new ground in our Livingston Fellowship Program by selecting both the 2016 class and the 2017 class from the pool of dynamic finalists. They were such a talented group we were simply afraid of letting them slip through the cracks of our usual nomination process so we selected both classes at once!
The 2016 Fellows include Terrell Curtis (The Delores Project), Jami Duffy (Youth on Record), Andrea Kalivas Fulton (Denver Art Museum), Francisco Gallardo (GRASP), and Michael Niyompong (Clayton Early Learning) and were announced at our annual spring Awards luncheon. The 2017 Livingston Fellows Class includes Lauren Arnold (The Adoption Exchange), Kim Easton (Urban Peak), Michael Henry (Lighthouse Writers Workshop), Nina Martinez (Street’s Hope), and Louise Martorano (RedLine) and they were announced in the fall at a newly created event called “A Celebration of Leadership.”
The “Celebration of Leadership” event will become an annual program of the Foundation, elevating our commitment to the Livingston Fellowship Program and nonprofit leadership. As part of the Celebration of Leadership, we also presented a conversation on leadership that was moderated by Lt. Governor Donna Lynne, and featured three of our Senior Fellows reflecting on their own leadership lessons: Carl Clark, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Denver, Christine Marquez-Hudson, CEO of The Denver Foundation, and Mike Yankovich, CEO of the Children’s Museum of Denver.
We are excited to share that in 2017 we will begin producing this event in partnership with the University of Denver, allowing us to expand its scope and reach.
Board of Trustees: We started off the year by welcoming Maruca Salazar, director of Museo de las Americas, as our second Community Trustee. This new Trustee category was created by the Trustees to allow the addition of two term-limited trustees to our small six-member board, adding diverse perspectives to our work.
Communications: In 2016 we introduced two new elements to our website. First, we felt it was important to share why the focus on arts funding was an important step in the life of the Foundation. We realized that many were asking, “Why the Arts?” when there is so much human need in our society.
So, we endeavored to answer that question in a section entitled, “Why Arts?” where we articulate the importance and value that arts and culture bring to our individual lives and to our society as a whole.
We also wanted to share the wonderful history and stories of our benefactors, May Bonfils Stanton and Charles Edwin Stanton. We have commissioned historian Dr. Tom Noel to research our history and while his work is still underway, an expanded historical timeline is now on our site [add link] where you can capture a glimpse of our roots.
As we move forward, here are few things to watch for in 2017: The awarding of our first Arts in Society grants, and the launch of the second year of the program; we will be partnering with the Wallace Foundation and Denver Arts & Venues to present a workshop sharing important new research on building new audiences; we will present our second Celebration of Leadership event in the fall which will also introduce our new partnership with University of Denver, allowing us to serve a much larger number of attendees. And we will also be participating in preliminary planning work for the 2018 Americans for the Arts convention, which will be held in Denver!