The Inside Scoop on the Miracle Theatre Group's Recent Funding Hot Streak

The Miracle Theatre Group, aka Milagro, the Pacific Northwest's premier Latino arts and culture organization, received $79,000 in grants from various foundations to support original works and community engagement.

If Milagro rings a bell, it's no coincidence. We here at IP profiled them earlier in the year when they were awarded four grants totaling $47,200 in support of arts and health education programming, capacity building, and arts residencies. The organization has been particularly adept at addressing the programming needs of the Pacific Northwest region's swelling Latino immigrant population. As we previously noted, the Latino population in Oregon grew by 64 percent over the last ten years and the rate of growth in Washington State is 71 percent.

So we can all agree that Milagro is working its magic out of their home base in Portland. But what else can we learn from this funding? For an answer, let's first look at the fine print of the recent announcement.

An overwhelming majority of the funding came from a $75,000 grant from the Collins Foundation to be dispersed in increments of $25,000 per year for three years. The funds will be used to "support diverse performances, programs, and operations celebrating Latino culture, diversity, and history."

Milagro also netted a $3,000 grant from Oregon Humanities for its "Learn to be Latina: Identity Bootcamp," a series of post-play conversations with audiences about the Latino experience. Milagro also received a $1,000 grant from Sterling Bank to support the production of "Ardiente Paciencia," a Spanish language production imagining Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's later years.

A majority of this funding will be devoted to new program offerings attuned to Milagro's target audience of low- to middle-income Latinos, students, and urban and rural residents. And if you reflect upon Milagro's previous round of grant funding, you can see a trend emerge.

The first round of grants from January were primarily devoted to capacity building, arts education development, summer arts camp, and its bilingual arts residency. You'll notice that none of these priorities specifically call for original programming. In other words, Milagro's funding strategy is following a tried and true template that looks like this: first, get funding for the core "architecture" of your organization like capacity building, education, and community engagement. Strengthen your brand, introduce yourselves to the community, ingratiate yourselves to families, make connections. 

Once this was in place, Milagro proceeded to the next step: securing funds to create compelling programming to serve its newly-acquired audiences and build upon its core architecture. No doubt the Collins Foundation was more inclined to open their checkbooks upon seeing that Milagro did the unglamorous legwork.

Is Milagro's funding strategy particularly revolutionary or sexy? Not really. Has it delivered the goods? Close to $130,000 in funding in less than six months seems to suggest yes.