Local Arts Boosts Business
Bridging the financial gap creatively
Article by Elon Gucklich | Photo by Ari Denison, Eugene Ballet
Eugene has a thriving art community, but sometimes we have to travel to the “BIG CITY” to see the “BIG SHOWS.”
The Eugene Ballet Company dreamt of producing Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” a few years back.
To make the vision come to life and to compose an unforgettable score, they looked for help in Portland. But commissioning Kenji Bunch, whose works have been played by more than 60 orchestras around the country, didn’t come cheap.
The ballet company had been awarded a $60,000 grant from an arts foundation to pay Bunch to compose an original score. As exciting as this was, the Eugene Ballet wouldn’t receive the grant funds until six weeks after its April 2017 performances of “The Snow Queen”—and Bunch required payment upfront.
All was not lost; here in our own backyard, a $60,000 art loan filled the gap, courtesy of the Arts and Business Alliance of Eugene.
“Every dollar is substantial when you’re a nonprofit arts organization,” says Eugene Ballet Company Executive Director Josh Neckels. “We have a roughly $2 million budget, so $60,000 may not seem like much, but when all the money is going out ahead of time—to have that loan in advance was vital to us in maintaining an even cash flow.”
Founded in 2008 as a joint effort of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Eugene, Travel Lane County, University of Oregon, and Lane Community College, Arts and Business Alliance (ABAE) seeks to unite the local business and artistic communities under common citywide goals.
Arts and Business Alliance Executive Director Kelly Johnson says, “Our goal is to build strong partnerships, because we know that a vibrant business sector with an equally vibrant creative sector is mutually beneficial.”
ABAE’s most direct effort came in 2016 with the launch of the Art Loans program, in partnership with the City of Eugene. The loans, between $10,000 and $100,000 each, are meant to cover expenses, like artist commissions and storefront improvements, or help bridge a funding gap for upfront production expenses and artist fees that are typically secured by box office receipts.
The art loans are provided with fixed interest rates. It’s a new and relatively untapped program—only the ballet company and a local artist who wanted to open a retail store have received loans to date.
The Art Loan fund began with an anonymous donation of $100,000 that was matched by the City of Eugene in 2016.
“These loans are an investment in the local economy,” she says. “We are so lucky to live in a place that has a treasure trove of high-quality arts and culture experiences. By investing in our arts, we are creating a community where people want to live, work and play.”
A recent study backs that up, highlighting the multimillion-dollar economic impact of the local arts and culture sector.
Art Loans encourage Eugene businesses, artists and nonprofits to incorporate art in a way that creates economic growth. Find out more at artsbusinessalliance.org
Enjoy the read? Check out more great content.