Why is the Reynolds Foundation Funding Theater in Southern Nevada?

Super Summer Theatre at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park in Las Vegas received a $600,000 grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, illustrating that foundations continue to generously fund "anchor events" that significantly benefit communities.

We hear a lot about "anchor institutions" in the nonprofit art world. These are arts centers, theaters, and performance spaces that act as the artistic hub within a specific city or town. These institutions provide valuable programming to the local community and drive economic revitalization. The aforementioned news out of Las Vegas, however, speaks to a different kind of "anchor" — the "anchor event."

Anchor events are one-time or repeating activities that nonetheless generate meaningful economic benefits to a community while providing quality entertainment for spectators. And it seems that foundations, even those that rarely dabble in arts funding, are particularly keen on them.

For example, IP just looked at news out of Flint, Michigan where the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation awarded a $120,000 grant to the Greater Flint Arts Council to fund the city's five-month Parade of Festivals arts program this summer. Mott has supported this program since its inception in 1999.

Similarly, we also noted how the Cleveland Foundation awarded a $80,000 Centennial Gift Grant to fund the Tri-C JazzFest in an ongoing effort to strengthen the event's reputation as one of the country's premier jazz festivals. (The news out of Cleveland shouldn't come as a complete surprise. The foundation has given the festival close to $850,000 over the course of its 35-year history.)

Ultimately, the takeaway is simple. Across the country, foundations are cutting checks for "destination" or "anchor" events that attract visitors to a city and spur economic development. Which brings us back to news out of Vegas.

Super Summer officials will collect $100,000 of the grant immediately and the remaining $500,000 will be delivered after Super Summer Theatre raises $500,000 in matching funds. As for the money itself, the foundation allocated it with an eye towards long-term sustainability. The grant will create a 10-year maintenance reserve fund and will pay for a litany of capital improvements, including a new stage roof and siding, landscape and parking improvements, concession stand and lighting booth renovation, and the purchase of theatrical and sound equipment. 

It was the largest grant in the 39-year history of the series. But why, precisely, did the Reynolds Foundation cut the check?  It's simple. The series has become one of the preeminent theater destinations in Southern Nevada, and with that growth has come many practical and financial challenges. The grant will allow the series to make much-needed operational improvements while simultaneously accommodating more visitors, more auditions, and more programming.

The Reynolds Foundation is primarily concerned with public health issues. The fact that they cut a generous check for a theater offering is telling. Could other traditionally non-arts focused foundations be far behind?