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The A.R.T. of Finance: Grants for Small Theatres

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Eighteen member theatres of A.R.T./NY (Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York) can expect to find some exciting mail arriving this week. Specifically, the theatre companies will find checks ranging in size from $2,000 to $5,000, courtesy of A.R.T./NY's Fund for Small Theatres.

Grants totaled $66,000, but A.R.T./ NY Development/Marketing Director Mark Rossier declined to provide the exact breakdown of who got what. "With a competitive grant program," he told Back Stage, "announcing the grant amounts can make it seem like you're ranking people. We don't want to do that.

"Just because one company got more money than another, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is 'better.'"

The companies that will receive the checks are the Abingdon Theatre Company, adobe theatre company, AMAS Musical Theatre, Freestyle Repertory Theatre, Ma-Yi Theatre Ensemble, The Mint Theater Company, New Georges, Rattlestick Productions, Soho Repertory Theatre, The Talking Band, Teatro Circulo, Theater by the Blind, The Working Theatre Company, and Yara Arts Group.

J.P. Morgan initiated the Fund for Small Theatres in 1998, after the financial company approached A.R.T./NY to discuss developing a re-grant program for theatres that are too large to receive funding as "emerging" and too small to receive foundation and corporate support. To be eligible, companies must be 501 (c) 3 non-profit theatres with annual budgets of at least $100,000 but no more than $300,000, and must be A.R.T./NY members.

David Van Asselt, artistic director of Rattlestick, said he appreciates that "A.R.T./NY doesn't put blinders on us," and allows the money to be used for general operations.

"We will use the money to help us with our new plays development festival, which we put on every year," he said. "The festival costs a good deal more than the $2,500 grant?we get about 600 scripts a year, so it involves a lot of time and money--but the grant will be very, very helpful."

Van Asselt also said that in many ways just getting the acknowledgment is as important as the money. "The recognition is very important," he stressed, "because then you can go somewhere else [for funding] and say, 'See? Somebody else things we're worthy.' That's especially true when the someone is as important an organization as A.R.T./NY, which does so much outstanding work."

Each year A.R.T./NY sends applications to its member theatres of eligible size, and contacts the New York State Council on the Arts for suggestions of other theatres of that size that have not joined. Those that are of the appropriate size are informed of the grants and encouraged to join the group, at a cost of one-half of one percent of the theatre company's annual budget (between $500 and $1,500). Theatre companies must join A.R.T./NY before applying for the grants.

Applicants must answer five questions: whether the company has a strong artistic center; if the company is clear about its mission and core programming; if the company is deeply rooted in a community or communities; whether the company works within a flexible management structure; and whether the company operates within fiscal means.

The next round will begin in spring.

Now in its 30th year, A.R.T./NY serves nearly 400 not-for-profit theatres and related organizations, which in turn serve over 6 million theatregoers annually. Its programs, in addition to the Fund for Small Theatres, include the Nancy Quinn Fund, which served more than 400 artists from approximately 115 emerging theatres during the 1999-2000 season; the Theatre Leadership Institute, which provides long-term management consultancies to 29 small and mid-size theatres; and the Roundtables program, which offers close to 50 workshops and professional development opportunities for companies of all sizes throughout the season. It is also the nation's only theatre-specific source of capital financing, through the Elizabeth Steinway Chapin Real Estate Loan Fund, which has invested more than $1.8 million in Off Broadway's infrastructure through loans and grants.

Not all A.R.T./NY programs have to do with obtaining money. It also provides low-cost office space through South Oxford Space, a five-story office building in Brooklyn. Twenty small theatre companies pay a subsidized rent of $12 per square foot?a fraction of market rates--and have access to a variety of shared facilities such as copy and fax machines, kitchen facilities, and gallery space. In addition, the building houses three rehearsal studios, also available for less than prevailing market rates.

For additional information about A.R.T./NY, call (212) 244-6667; e-mail artnewyork@aol.com; write or visit the office at 575 Eighth Avenue, Suite 17 South, New York NY 10018; or log onto the website at www.- offbroadwayonline.com/about.php3.

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