One of the strengths of the Arts Catalyst program is that it meets people where they are at. All of the participants in the first cohort two years ago had different needs. They all went through the same consulting workshop, developed an innovation goal plan, and worked with Business Volunteers for the Arts. If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll see they’ve all benefited from their participation. The fourth and final post in our Where Are They Now series shines the spotlight on Art League of New Britain (ALNB), the oldest organization in Cohort 1, and also the second oldest art league in the country!
During the preliminary consultation, each organization analyzed their Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, and Threats. Board members Christie Ward and Jim Brunelle served as representatives for ALNB, and like other organizations in the cohort, found that their strengths and challenges sometimes overlap. ALNB, founded approximately 90 years ago, is housed in a picturesque carriage house, first owned by local industrialist George Post. However, they struggle with usable space for growth. Ward and Brunelle ultimately settled on the goal to expand ALNB’s offerings by creating special workshops and lectures appealing to a broader and more diverse audience. “Jim and I had a great time during the innovation goal process. As a board, we had often talked about new ideas, but we had never engaged in such a detailed level of imagining and planning,” elaborated Ward.
“We were hoping for a professional who could bring a fresh perspective to the table, and we were not disappointed.”
After creating their innovation goal plan, Ward and Brunelle started working with marketing specialist Stephanie Glasgow of Women’s Health USA. “The BVA pairing was especially exciting for us. We were hoping for a professional who could bring a fresh perspective to the table, and we were not disappointed,” Ward said of Glasgow. “We also felt the process of guided self-reflection would be very valuable to our organization, and it was.” Brunelle added, “our BVA took appropriate time (in a busy schedule) to meet with board members to survey and assess survey responses to membership’s needs.”
One of the major projects Glasgow helped with was a proposal template for ALNB’s Salon Series, a year-long schedule of events focused on thematically connecting visual art exhibits to a lively discussion of relevant current events and/or a live performance. The event template included a project abstract, organizational description and history, program review, event description, project timeline, budget template. Last year, ALNB held five Salon Series events with themes including Utopian/Dystopian literature, “Fake News,” American Women Artists in the 19th Century, Connecticut Women Writers Panel, and Un Año después de Maria, an exhibition and musical event held in conjunction with programming at the New Britain Museum of American Art in commemoration of the first anniversary of the Hurricane Maria disaster in Puerto Rico. “Without Stephanie’s encouragement, we might not have made the leap into this kind of new programming, which has attracted people who have never before visited ALNB,” commented Ward. “We plan to use remaining [Arts Catalyst] funds to offer additional Salon events in 2019.
Since participating in the Arts Catalyst program, ALNB has been able to expand their membership as well as actively promoting their programming. After surviving a flood in their gallery a couple weeks ago that could have seriously damaged an entire exhibition, they’re looking at capital improvements as well. “We are looking forward to improving our building by renovating the stables and expanding our gallery space,” reads a statement from the Board of Directors. “We also hope to hold more art exhibits and more Salon events. We would like to offer more classes and to seek out more opportunities for community engagement.”
Our second cohort of small arts & culture organizations are currently in the midst of the Arts Catalyst program, and we’re looking forward to seeing the results!
– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager