by Carrie Kirk
About two years ago, I was asked to be on the board of a local dance company. I was flattered. I was honored. I was confused. Let me break down my thinking. Whenever I am in the audience for a performance at various venues, flipping through the pages of the evening's program, of course one of the first things I find is the page listing the names of those serving on the organization's board, along with donors and their level of philanthropic giving. I do this because I'm nosy. And I like seeing a familiar name and thinking, Hey, I know that person! And maybe I think when I'm all grown up I can be one of those people who are deemed influential enough to be a part of an arts organization's successful stay and "bloom" in our community. So when I got the call from Dance Kaleidoscope's Executive Director Jan Virgin to serve on DK's board, I wondered, "Am I all grown up for this?"
I said yes to Jan and have served on the DK board ever since our phone call that summer afternoon. And while my name now appears in the DK performance program for my fellow nosy Hoosier natives to see, I get it. I am beginning to understand what serving on an arts organization's board means. All sorts of gifts should come from board members. Sometimes -- and this is what I primarily thought when I was a Nosy Nelly in the audience -- it is the check. Board members should fiscally stand behind their organization. The manner in which I can financially support DK compared to a fellow board member might not cast such an imposing shadow. That's OK. Board members are like those three wise men. They come bearing different gifts. Some have the gift of gab. Some the gift of being well-connected. Others have the gift of rolling up his or her sleeves and getting the mundane but necessary work done.
Our city's arts organizations are amazing largely due to their talent and products. But what really sets them apart is their ability to hang in there. Despite economic hardship, a small staff undertaking a large workload, or the escalating prices to market and advertise one's product, they remain. Year after year, our stages and theaters and galleries provide for us, a city of folks who value the arts but also really value our sports. But I digress. That's another blog. Point is, the arts run a marathon every day, and sometimes our city has run out of the medals at the finish line for these organizations and companies who continue to persevere.
Maybe as patrons of the arts we might grow up a little bit and say our very own individual and unique "yes" to our art institutions, dance companies, galleries and theaters. The Indianapolis arts community puts on its big-girl pants everyday so why shouldn't we?