Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Poetry: The Algae of the Arts Funding Food Chain

All of us at Floating Bridge Press take pride in the fact that during our 12+ years of poetic hard work and fun we’ve always stayed in the black financially. Unlike many non-profits, we have never had an operating deficit. Not once. What we’ve lacked in dynamic marketing skills we’ve made up for in dynamic grant writing skills. Our success is even more amazing when one notes that very few corporations or foundations fund the arts, and those that do nearly always exclude “publications.” Try asking someone to fund poetry and you’ll likely get the response, “What kind of 'tree?' ”

Still, we persevere. We are incredibly thankful for our handful of private donors and subscribers. (Do you have your Floating Bridge Press coffee mug? No? Donate!) But honestly, we would not be here if it weren’t for the incredible vision and generosity of our government. Yes, that’s right, our government. Money from the Seattle Arts Commission (now officially called the City of Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs), the King County Arts Commission (now called 4Culture) and the Washington State Arts Commission (blessedly un-renamed) have kept Floating Bridge afloat.

But our solvency has come at a price. Our reliance grant funds means that we MUST create programs within certain timelines, certain guidelines, and covering certain areas. While we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to exist, we have not had the freedom to change our readings and publications, to dream beyond the boundaries of our funding, nor to think long-term.

Now we’re changing all that. In a leap of brilliance, the FBP Board has voted to ensure the future of the press forever by creating an Endowment Fund. Our five-year goal is to raise $100,000, the annual interest from which will entirely support our yearly programs. The fund will be owned and managed by The Seattle Foundation; FBP will only own the income stream generated by the fund. This secures the principle from being spent by any future well-meaning FBP Board.

Poetry is truly “the algae of the arts funding food chain.” The amount of money we are trying to raise in five years, many organizations will raise in one hour (just attend any charity art auction — you will be amazed). If you’re putting on an opera, play, concert or other performance, teaching art to children, providing arts facilities, bringing lecturers or movies to the public, the funding possibilities are enormous. But if you want to publish a poem — forget it! So, how are we going to raise this poetically unfathomable, unattainably enormous sum? Stay tuned . . .



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