Adam Parker is a good journalist, but I think he overlooked something in this morning’s report about the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
The news is that the CSO got a matching grant of $75,000 on Wednesday for donations of more than $1,000. The orchestra has been getting many small donations, as City Paper‘s Stratton Lawrence reported, but big donors have been missing.
Everything seemed fine to me until I read the first sentence of the last paragraph. Parker was providing background for the news:
The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelly [sic] Foundation is offering a $250,000 matching grant to the CSO, Charleston Ballet Theatre and Charleston Stage.
This isn’t quite right for semantic reasons. But given how serious the situation is for the CSO, CBT, and Charleston Stage, the devil may well be in the details.
The Donnelley Foundation is not “offering” any amount of money to any arts group. A request has been made of the Donnelley by the Coastal Community Foundation, whose president is the soft-spoken and politically neutral George Stevens.
Stevens is making the request on behalf of these arts organizations as well as any other arts group that wants to participate in a larger discussion taking place.
That discussion is about creating an entity that would serve area arts organizations during this historic economic meltdown. It would handle the business side of the arts — such as fund-raising, promotion, and marketing — while leaving art to the artists.
That entity is being loosely called an “arts council” or “arts alliance” or “arts coalition.”
The grant request being made of the Donnelley Foundation is for as much as $250,000. It would be the seed money for this proposed administrative entity.
It would not be used for the CSO’s immediate payroll obligations. The money would be mostly for long-term purposes, such as establishing collaborative arts council. The only short-term use might be — emphasis on might — for the promotion of holiday season programming.
All of this might be moot anyway, because the Donnelley has yet to approve the Coastal Community Foundation’s grant request. And even if it does, the Donnelley has the right to modify it — the amount, the purpose, and the rationale behind it all.
For more on the proposed arts council, check out my story here.
The arts groups initially invited to the discussion by Ellen Dressler Moryl, the director of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, were the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Charleston Ballet Theatre, and Charleston Stage. All of them target similar donors. Moryl said they should present a united front.
Since the initial meeting of the Big Three, important steps have been taken to demonstrate that Charleston’s smaller arts groups will have a place in the negotiation table. On Dec. 8, Stevens and Moryl are meeting with board members of the League of Charleston Theatres. The move is being taken as a sign of greater inclusivity.