#ThursdayIdeas | Atlanta History Center, Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, The Cottage School
A new model for sharing history
In 2012, Atlanta History Center decided they needed to move beyond the museum-standard “blockbuster exhibition model” that does little more, said CEO Sheffield Hale, than create seasonal spikes in attendance. "Why settle for a few big exhibits—likely to attract the same attendees every time—when we could program events year-round aimed at specific, varied, brand-new audiences?"
To bring in young professionals—a tough demographic to engage in history—the newly-hired CEO and his team developed a cocktail party series called Party with the Past: Free History, Cold Beer. Held at Atlanta locales like the Fox Theater and the historic home of Georgia folklorist Joel Chandler Harris (current home of the Wren’s Nest), each free-to-attend party features a guest speaker, activities and prizes, and a cash bar (naturally), as well as food for purchase.
“These gatherings help make the history of Atlanta relevant and exciting for a younger generation, not just by connecting them directly to a historic locale but to the stories behind it," said Hale, citing the Variety Playhouse event that featured a panel discussion about the role Little Five Points has played in Atlanta culture.
Heavily promoted through social media, the effort has netted impressive crowds: To date, the program has hosted more than 5,500 party guests, and earned an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History.
Crowdfunding the next act
In a 2012 meeting of directors from 60 different U.S. city arts programs, Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs ED Camille Russell Love learned about a new online initiative that finances individual arts projects directly through crowdfunding. Called power2give, it was chartered by the Charlotte Arts & Science Council and set to expand into new markets. Seeing an exciting funding tool for arts organizations, Love and her team jumped: “It’s a new way to reach their audience, and to develop their patronage beyond attending a performance, or buying a high-priced gala ticket.”
Since the launch of the site (power2give.org/Atlanta), average Atlantans have donated to 212 different local arts projects, from Living Walls-commissioned murals to mentors for young actors at True Colors Theatre to a larger-than-life sock puppet mascot for The Center for Puppetry Arts. And thanks to an increase in the budget, championed by Mayor Reed, $200,000 in donations are matched by the Office every year.
“It has worked out tremendously for everyone involved,” said Love, who reported that The Center for Puppetry Arts, with help from power2give, increased its number of donations by 206 percent over the previous year.
By new supporters, for new supporters
Long committed to innovation in education, The Cottage School in Roswell found a creative way to reach those unfamiliar with its work: a board subcommittee made up of people unfamiliar with its work. Populated by friends of board members who otherwise had no affiliation with the school, the subcommittee's job was to brainstorm methods for reaching people like themselves, and (in the process) raise money for a scholarship endowment. Over a year and half, the group brought in speakers, held round-table discussions, and got deep into the possibilities. What they came up with and pulled off was unprecedented in the history of the school and its city: the inaugural Roswell Azalea Festival, a week-long event series involving the City of Roswell and fellow nonprofits like the Chattahoochee Nature Center, culminating in a two-day gala and golf tournament. Widely covered in the local press, and still collecting donations, Director of Advancement Tracy Ballot reported that the effort is on track to add at least $50,000 to the scholarship fund.