Why Is Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council's Invitation for RFPs So Important?

On the heels of a massive $8 million funding spree to nonprofit arts organizations in St. Paul, Dennis Scholl, the vice president of the arts for the Knight Foundation, noted, "The thing I see in St. Paul that I don't see as much in other communities is a real sense of collaboration."

It was a rather subtle comment, but a telling one nonetheless. After all, it's somewhat rare for foundations to openly state that a certain region is more progressive or collaborative than another. Scholl's comment underscores the emergence of the Twin Cities as a major artistic hub, which, of course, is great news. That said, when foundations provide an inordinate amount of praise (and money) to a specific city, smaller towns in surrounding regions may feel, well, left out.

Forgive us here for getting quasi-political, but in a way, this phenomenon seems to reflect a kind of "trickle-down" philanthropy, the idea that "a rising tide lifts all boats." In this case, therefore, one could argue that if St. Paul and Minneapolis are raking in money, smaller nonprofits in surrounding areas will inevitably benefit due to the heightened interest in the region as a whole. It's a very optimistic assumption, but neither nonprofits nor foundations should take it as a given.

The Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council recently announced that it is open to applications from nonprofit arts organizations for arts education and access projects in the 11-county region it serves.

The council is located in Rochester, Minnesota, about 81 miles southeast of Minneapolis (an approximate one hour and 20 minute drive according to Google Maps), and serves 11 counties, including Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, and Winona. This next round of grant making (with deadlines of October 1, 2014) consists of three distinct areas:

  • Arts and Cultural Heritage grants of between $3,000 and $10,000 pertaining to arts and arts access, arts education, and arts and cultural heritage. The council is specifically looking for projects with an "emphasis on creating lasting partnerships among regional nonprofit arts organizations." These grants require a 20 percent match. 
  • Presenter/Production Assistance grants of between $300 and $3,000 for local arts organizations sponsor appearances by touring artists or companies. A 50 percent match is required. 
  • Small Towns/Rural Areas grants of between $300 and $3,000 to support the creation and development of art and arts organizations in communities with a population under 7,500. These grants require a 50 percent match.

In each instance, qualified projects must have a focus on the fine arts (i.e., the development, education, performance and/or showcasing of the arts) and must include an "accessible public capstone event" to benefit the citizens of southeastern Minnesota. In addition, each of the aforementioned categories has two deadlines per fiscal year, on October 1 and April 1.

The council also awards grants for Program/Administrative Consultancies, Arts Management Training, and Opportunity grants. The first two have application deadlines thirty days prior to the training start date. Meanwhile, the deadline for receipt of Opportunity grants applications is fifteen days prior to the intended start date.

Link to the guidelines for all RFPs can be found here.