Atlanta's arts organizations brace for crisis 

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Another survival imperative, Cremin tells arts organizations, is to solidify connections with core supporters.

Independent radio station WRFG-FM (89.3) used this strategy in recent weeks when it launched an intense, 10-day fund drive aimed at overcoming a potential shortfall. Station administrator Joan Baptist, one of only two paid employees among an all-volunteer staff, says the drive was a great success, netting $51,000.

That money should be enough to carry WRFG through the next couple of months, but the station, which relies almost entirely on individual donations and a few grants, needs to meet higher overhead costs that came with upgrading its signal last year.

“We figured a stronger signal would bring us more listeners, which would mean more support, but it hasn’t worked out that way yet,” Baptist says. While she was pleased with the impromptu fund drive, Baptist says she realizes the station dips into that well only so often.

Arts organizations aren’t the only ones trying to adapt to the new normal. For the first time, the Woodruff Foundation is considering giving grants for purposes other than construction projects.

“We recognize it’s not a time for an arts organization to build a new venue, so we’re thinking about what we might do to help these groups,” says foundation President Russell Hardin.

The Woodruff Center (which is not affiliated with the Woodruff Foundation) is also planning to make its proprietary electronic ticketing system available to other performing arts groups to aid smaller venues.
Other ideas are likely to be generated by MAACC’s next event, a March 16 town hall meeting titled, “Strategies for Art & Culture Organizations in the Current Economy,” with opening remarks by Mayor Shirley Franklin.

Even pulling together and pooling resources and advice won’t make the crisis go away for arts groups. The question is, who will survive?

Says Cremin: “It’s unimaginable that this community will look the same in another year or two.”

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