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New program trains arts leaders in Grand Rapids area

Amelia Falk
Wellspring/Cori Terry & Dancers
Modern dance company Wellspring celebrates its 30th anniversary this year

35 arts organizations in west Michigan have been picked to be part of a new two-year training program run by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

The goal of the program is to teach arts leaders how to fundraise better and attract new board members, among other things.

Michael Kaiser, Kennedy Center president, will lead the first "Capacity Building: Grand Rapids" seminar on November 19th. Here's an excerpt from the program's press release:

“Grand Rapids is home to a wealth of vibrant cultural organizations,” stated Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser. “At the same time, Michigan’s economy has been hit particularly hard economically in recent years. The Kennedy Center’s capacity building programs provide training that will help build and strengthen arts organizations while providing a forum for working on solutions to common challenges.”

Maria Suszynski will take part in the training. She's executive director of Wellspring, a modern dance company in Kalamazoo. Suszynski says she’s worked with Kaiser before. The #1 thing she learned?

"Don’t cut your program and marketing per se because you have to give people a reason to come and support you, and that’s typically where organizations make a mistake in their budget cuts."

A similar training program for metro Detroit arts organizations began in September.

Both programs are part of a national training institute funded by a $22.5 million grant from West Michigan philanthropists, Dick and Betsy DeVos.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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