Oregon Cultural Trust announced this week that Friends of the Florence Events Center (FEC) received a Cultural Development Capacity Grant totaling $30,800.
“Generous spring donors lifted Oregon Cultural Trust fundraising to a new high, resulting in a record $2.94 million in grants to 136 cultural nonprofits for fiscal year 2018,” the grant package stated.
The grant will “support theater lighting and sound equipment upgrades to improve sustainability of the cultural events center operations.”
The Friends of the FEC will provide matching funds for the project, with in-kind donations and donated staff hours bringing the total project to $70,000.
FEC Marketing Specialist Jennifer Connor, who worked with the Friends to write the grant, said, “This is something we’ve been hoping to do. It has been on the wish list since we started raising money (in 2016) with Dancing with Sea Lions. We saw there might be potential to do something big.”
Connor and members of the Friends attended several Oregon Cultural Trust “Conversations with Funders” to determine the type of grant they should seek.
“When we talked to some of these organizations back in January, they said there weren’t a lot of people applying in this category. Everybody heard that, and about 70 grants were requested in the capacity category. There was really stiff competition this year,” Connor said.
According to Oregon Cultural Trust, the Cultural Development Grants — which address access, capacity, creativity and preservation — included first-time awards to 37 organizations and an average grant award of $17,050. More than half of the grants went to organizations outside the Portland Metro area.
FEC Director Kevin Rhodes said, “It’s nice that we got an award this size while being on the coast. Now we have some resources to work with.”
The Friends wrote the grant with assistance from local grant writer Susy Lacer and included a video made by Margaret McDiarmid.
“Margaret’s video showcased performances at the FEC,” Connor said.
The film was put together while Children’s Repertory of Oregon Workshops (CROW) was doing “The Addams Family Musical.”
“It was nice because we could show kids coming off the school bus and into the theater for a free performance. It helped cement the idea that the arts are for everybody,” Connor said.
Rhodes said three things made the application successful: The matching funds from the Friends, a nonprofit group; promoting arts for youth with Kids Koncerts and special showings throughout the year; and the “green” element of switching to LED lighting.
“This grant will enable us to put in LED lighting, which will save tremendously and will qualify for more rebates,” he said. “Eventually, it will pay off the investment that the city makes towards it.”
The City of Florence also put in $40,000 toward LED lighting retrofits at the FEC. This replaces lighting in the offices, flat floor spaces, exterior of the building and the parking lot.
Anderson Group International is doing the lighting work. The group also donated $6,500 at a nonprofit discount towards the project total.
The LED stage lighting will streamline lighting design for FEC staff, McDiarmid and other volunteer stagehands who need to change color gels for the various shows and performances held on the main stage. Now, the LEDs will include several colors on each fixture.
“It’s a lot less labor to change lighting,” Connor said. “It gives more capability, which will be really cool for the various functions.”
A new sound system will provide better coverage to the entire seating area and will be better able to accommodate performances.
Connor said audiences don’t notice when theater lighting and sound work well; they only notice when something goes wrong.
“All of this will make shows in the theater brighter, crisper and clearer in sound,” she said.
Connor estimates that the lighting and sound systems will be installed within the next two months.
“Because it’s such a high grant award — and, I must note, the second highest in the county, and the eighth highest in all of Oregon — there are quite a few restrictions. We need to give them updates and feedback at the end,” she said.
The Friends will provide matching money for the remainder of the $70,000 project.
“All the Friends of the Event Center’s money goes into one pot,” Rhodes said. “The Dancing with Sea Lions certainly gave a good foundation to supply that matching money.”
The Friends raise money throughout the year with the Winter Music Festival, the Indoor Yard Sale and Florence Festival of Books, among other events.
“They have enough funds, but they’re still looking for donations. A $30,000 draw will take a chunk out of their funds,” Rhodes said. “Overall, our community is trying to become an arts destination. The Friends highly support that with what they do for the events center.”
Connor said the Oregon Cultural Trust especially commented on the records the Friends of the FEC keep.
“They said the financial records were well in order and easy to read. That’s thanks to Bonnie MacDuffee, who puts all of our records together and works so hard and does an amazing job at that,” Connor said.
“You don’t always get good records with volunteer organizations. Having someone like Bonnie saves us,” he said. “The Friends also recently went through a random audit, and she led them through and came out with no glitches.”
This all goes to show that the FEC isn’t just fundraising locally — it is matching funds and seeking grants and other sources of revenue.
It’s why the FEC is still relevant, Connor and Rhodes agreed. The FEC is not a one-trick pony.
“It’s been a lot of work on the part of the Friends over the years to get to this point,” Connor said.
Rhodes added, “Anybody that wants to help contribute to Florence becoming an arts destination is always welcome.”
For more information, visit eventcenter.org.