New Arts Challenge Grant Rolled Out by Berrien Community Foundation

The latest coronavirus relief for the arts community of Michigan’s Great Southwest can be characterized by the simple phrase: “Ten organizations…One challenge.” It all stems from the team at the Berrien Community Foundation which has announced a new Arts Challenge Grant in the region.

Non-profit arts organizations of Berrien County have joined forces for one matching grant that will benefit them all. The Berrien Community Foundation (BCF) has a long history of supporting the arts and wanted to ensure the arts remain a vibrant part of the community as we collectively emerge from the pandemic. Seeing the difficulties being faced, BCF secured an anonymous donor who shared the love of the arts and brought everyone together for a challenge to support local arts organizations. That donor has pledged $75,000 through BCF as a challenge gift to support the arts organizations noted below.

Participating in the challenge are:

  • The Acorn
  • ARS Gallery, Arts and Culture Center
  • The Citadel Dance and Music Center
  • Children’s Music Workshop
  • The GhostLight Theatre
  • Krasl Art Center
  • Performing Arts Workshops
  • Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra
  • Twin City Players
  • Water Street Glassworks

Those ten organizations involved serve communities all over Berrien County, providing experiences in various arts disciplines to all ages. From glass-blowing to early childhood music, from highly attended concerts to engaging workshops and classes, from cutting-edge theatre to breathtaking galleries, these organizations are the beating heart of cultural engagement in Berrien County.

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Berrien Community Foundation President Lisa Cripps-Downey says, “The arts are such an important part of our community,” and adds, “We have relied on the arts to inspire and entertain, especially through the stay home order. These organizations supported us with virtual concerts, classes and art gallery tours. Theater costumers have sewn thousands of masks. Now it is our turn to show that same kind of support to them.”

Participating organizations sought unity rather than competition during this financially turbulent time. The many effects of COVID-19 have resulted in this much-needed collaboration. Inspired by the unity among arts organizations, an anonymous donor has pledged $75,000 as a matching challenge gift to support those arts organizations. Every dollar donated will be matched. Therefore, this fundraising challenge has the potential to provide $150,000 or more in much needed operating support.

Sue Kellogg of Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra says, “We all play an important role in our region, but when we come together for a common goal, it shines a spotlight on the Arts as a whole. It gives emphasis to the value of what we all do for the community and the need to preserve it.”

According to Susan Dietrich-Reed of The Citadel Dance and Music Center, “The fabric of a diverse society depends on Arts education, opportunities, venues and funding. Together we can accomplish more than separately and continue to embrace all the Arts offerings we have in Southwest Michigan.”

Through this opportunity, organizations have learned more about each other and connected in new ways. Not only has this new alliance formed for this challenge, the joint effort has sparked a desire for future collaboration to further enrich the communities of Berrien County.

Adrienne Glisson of Children’s Music Workshops says, “The arts are stronger together!” and adds, “The opportunity to share resources and ideas with each other has been a wonderful experience, one that I hope can continue after our ‘challenge’ is complete!”

Each organization’s leadership along with their respective boards of directors have made contributions already. Those collective contributions have achieved $29,160 of the $75,000 goal. The involved organizations are now seeking the support of the community to raise the remaining $45,840 in a campaign that will run from July 8th to August 15th. Donors may also participate in an online auction of items donated by the organizations involved that will run July 15th to July 31st.

Contributors may send checks to Berrien Community Foundation at 2900 S. State Street, Ste. 2E, St. Joseph, MI 49085 or donate on their website using this link:   http://www.berriencommunity.org/artschallenge