A core focus of our strategic investment strategy at the Rocket Community Fund is supporting inclusive events and programming to spark new connections between people, place and culture. The importance of investing in arts and cultural institutions cannot be understated. The arts are critical to helping people forge bonds with each other and feel connected to their culture, which in helps to build resiliency within the community. During the unprecedented crises of 2020, when so many have been forced apart, these connections are more important than ever before. That’s why we’re so proud to share our new partnership with CultureSource.
CultureSource is a nonprofit organization with the mission to advance the work of organizations that cultivate creative and cultural expression in Southeast Michigan. Seven months ago, our Community Sponsorships team approached CultureSource with an idea for a partnership to better support arts and cultural organizations during these challenging times. Specifically, we wanted to collaborate on a program that would help these organizations adapt to the necessary changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and build the tools and skills required to continue their mission.
This holistic program includes educational resources, research and small grants designed to help arts organizations create, grow and thrive in a blended future that includes both digital and online programming.
Digital Access for the Arts: Building Infrastructure for Digital Resources
During the coronavirus pandemic, arts and cultural organizations were hit hard because much of their programming was designed to be experienced in-person. While this crisis forced many organizations into survival mode, it also underscored the importance of digital connectivity and resources as a fundamental component of their overall programming. After speaking with several of these institutions, it became clear that there was not only a need to address immediate operational changes, but also an opportunity for capacity and knowledge building around digital access and the creation of online resources.
The Digital Access for the Arts Program is a four-part program that will help CultureSource build their technology infrastructure and knowledge base to create diverse and inclusive online content. They recognize that many arts and culture organizations need capacity-building to make the transition to digital spaces. However, CultureSource must also first be able to strengthen their own digital infrastructure to support its partners. That’s where the Rocket Community Fund comes in.
“Our main goal is to assist arts and culture organizations with creating accessible programming that attracts diverse audiences. The Digital Access for the Arts Program allows us to do that in a unique way that’s deeper than the typical sponsorship partnership,” said Jasmin DeForrest, Director of Community Sponsorships at the Rocket Community Fund. “Creating a layered program that includes educational resources allows us to offer holistic support to a wide range of arts and culture organizations.”
This multi-layered digital strategy includes the introduction of Tech Experts-in-Residence, who will be brought on board to assist partnering organizations with tailored, individualized support. These Tech Experts-in-Residence will also provide thought partnership on funding initiatives and in designing a series of monthly workshops created to help organizations develop and produce digital work.
Supporting Regranting Through Creators of Culture
In addition to strengthening the digital infrastructure and strategy, the Rocket Community Fund is also supporting an arts regranting program called, “Creators of Culture.” This program funds opportunities for grassroots, artist-led creative activities in the Detroit metro area.
Launched in 2019, “Creators of Culture” began as an experimental, collaborative initiative to better support the funding of traditionally under-resourced arts activity. Each year, the program has adapted to address the needs of artists, collectives and organizations. In 2020, the program offered two grant opportunities: one for venues that have ceased activity due to the pandemic, and one for developing artists who have never previously received a grant. Creators of Culture is critical in providing much-needed support to the art and cultural activity in Detroit and Southeastern Michigan.
The importance of this innovative partnership with CultureSource cannot be overstated. It will pave the way for strengthening the resilience of arts and culture organizations during these challenging times.
“We hope that our partnership with Rocket Community Fund will positively impact the organizations we work with through both the Digital Access for the Arts Program and our Creators of Culture grant program as both seek to support our arts and cultural sector at one of the most difficult periods in our history – a time that is truly an existential crisis for arts and culture,” said Omari Rush, Executive Director of CultureSource. “Through this partnership in both programs, our work will not only financially support artists and organizations in our region, but continue our work of connecting them and facilitating learning opportunities to help grow and sustain their work.”