What started out as a simple question – is there interest among historic sacred places and arts organizations to partner in ways that benefit both groups? – has now become an exciting in-depth program at Partners for Sacred Places, Making Homes for the Arts in Sacred Places.
Making Homes for the Arts in Sacred Places fosters successful partnerships between arts groups and congregations.
We do this by maintaining a database of information on arts organizations and sacred places; providing tools such as training, documentation, and budget and legal assistance; and acting as matchmakers and facilitators for partnerships.
Through conversations with arts and faith communities, it is clear that most of their immediate needs center around space – either needing more or having too much – but this is just one of the assets at the core of these potential partnerships. Others include the prospect of increasing audience and stakeholder bases, collaborative fundraising, access to new funding sources, equipment sharing, and more.
The Problem and the Opportunity
Particularly for small to mid-size organizations, there is a critical need within the arts community for adequate, appropriate, affordable rehearsal, presenting, creating, and office space. They are routinely priced out of areas that become popular due to the very atmosphere they helped generate. Their ability to continue to engage in creative activity, in a setting that supports close interaction with their peers and local clientele, is threatened. In many cities, escalating rents and property costs have led to a severe shortage of affordable space, causing a shift in the city’s creative center elsewhere. Younger, emerging artists and companies are hardest hit, and are critical to the future development of the arts.
Partners’ experience with thousands of congregations shows that many are overwhelmed with caring for surplus space in their older properties. As membership decreases, faith leaders struggle to find new ways to fill their buildings and fund repairs. These magnificent spaces are underutilized. Their congregations, committed to their neighborhoods and deeply engaged with the communities they serve, continue to occupy their historic buildings, but are so small they no longer worship in their sanctuaries. Their fellowship halls, kitchens, education wings, and other spaces are underused or vacant most of the week. With skilled stewardship, congregations can be mobilized to contribute to the revitalization, renewal, and support of their communities through the careful matching of their underused assets. These sacred places can serve as homes to a wide range of organizations and activities, all revolving around a historic physical place.
Partners’ Solution and the AiSP Program
Partners designed and launched the Making Homes for the Arts in Sacred Places (AiSP) program in the fall of 2011. Partners works with both the artists and congregations to negotiate sustainable, mutually-beneficial relationships including:
- how to create baseline rental rates for congregations that fall within arts groups’ means
- how to integrate an art group’s aesthetic into a church’s mission and look for mission alignment between artists and congregations
- how religious doctrine relates to arts content
- how to determine cost sharing of utilities and services such as housekeeping, snow removal, and refuse collection