Regina R. Smith, The Kresge Foundation

TITLE: Managing Director, Arts & Culture

FUNDING AREAS: Performing arts, museums, creative spaces, theater

CONTACT: rrsmith@kresge.org, 248-643-9630

IP TAKE: Smith is the person that actively seeks out potential grantees for Kresge's Arts & Culture program, so impressing her with your work is a must if you want even a sliver of a chance of getting your hands on some of those funds.

PROFILE: Regina Smith is one to impress. The longstanding arts expert is the managing director of Arts & Culture at The Kresge Foundation, notable for partnering with artists and organizations specifically focused on revitalizing underserved communities through various arts programs and activities. Among her many responsibilities at The Kresge Foundation, Smith identifies prospects for funding, reviews funding requests, conducts site visits, meets with prospective grantees, and oversees current grant relationships. Quite a busy schedule, but Smith is definitely qualified for the job.

"I bring many years of experience in the arts and cultural field at the local, state, and regional levels to my work at Kresge," Smith says. "This position provides a rewarding opportunity to continue to learn about the field and nonprofit sector, meet new people, and explore new possibilities for how arts and culture can be used to animate our communities." She joined the foundation in 2009 not only for the art, but for the people it serves. "I enjoy working with individuals who are passionate about what they do, and I'm inspired by those who are constantly learning."

The Troy, Michigan-based Kresge Foundation focuses on the role of the arts in revitalizing communities by giving grants to organizations serving low-income and vulnerable populations. Once solely known for its Challenge Grant, an award that assists in major construction and renovation projects, the organization now hosts an array of funding options. Funds are unrestricted and can be used as the recipient sees fit toward meeting its arts objectives. For example, funds can be used toward staffing, new technology, or business-practice development. 

The foundation awards around $19-$20 million a year to 90-100 different recipients. Founded in 1924 with an initial gift of $1.6 million by its namesake, Sebastian Spering Kresge, the foundation's total assets are now over $3 billion—well worth investigating if you're part of an organization using the arts to promote community rebuilding. “The brilliance of Sebastian Kresge is best exhibited in his guiding wish that the foundation ‘promote human progress,’” says Elaine D. Rosen, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees.

Prior to joining The Kresge Foundation, Smith managed a $12 million grants portfolio at Charlotte, North Carolina's Arts & Science Council. Smith began her career at the Cleveland Children’s Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art as a museum educator after studying arts administration at Winthrop University. She has also worked at several arts organizations across the Midwestern United States, including Culture Works in Dayton, OH, Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Indiana Arts Commission. 

Further examples of the kinds of organizations and individuals Smith awards include the Heart Gallery Alabama, a Missouri-based organization that helps find adoptive homes for older children, large sibling groups, and foster children who have mental or physical disabilities. The grant was given to help create photo and video profiles to recruit adoptive families. Said Smith of the funding, "We hope this work will continue to broaden civic discussion and grow and nurture new and established arts audiences." Certainly something to talk about, and a worthy project that goes beyond usual arts programming.

For more on the types of programs Smith has successfully designated for funding, visit The Kresge Foundation's grants database, as well as its main arts and culture hub. Organizations can apply for grants directly via the website.