The Journal Sentinel Runs UPAF Campaign Co-Chair Opinion Piece

The Journal Sentinel Runs UPAF Campaign Co-Chair Opinion Piece

UPAF connecting with the community

For the 49th year, the United Performing Arts Fund is bringing up the curtain on its 15-week workplace giving campaign to raise needed funds to continue the vibrancy of the region’s performing arts scene. Donations to UPAF go to support 15 member groups.

As business people representing different industry segments — hospitality, legal services and financial services — we share an interest in making sure that the performing arts prosper and engage beyond just the performance on the stage. Of course, a vibrant arts scene helps us recruit and retain the best talent and brings greater economic prosperity to the region, but our involvement cuts deeper. We want to make sure the work of UPAF and its member groups connect to the community and that no one in the region should be excluded from experiencing the best in music, dance and theater.

Making this connection between community and the arts is an imperative for building future audiences and donors, and that includes efforts to make the arts more accessible to underserved residents. In the coming weeks, with the support of Michael Best & Friedrich, UPAF will be partnering with local nonprofits to bring these world-class performances and arts education programming to those who traditionally have not had this opportunity. The program called UPAF Connect works under the proven premise that arts exposure connects diverse populations and increases social engagement while also lowering crime and poverty rates.

UPAF Connect will bring greater exposure to the performing arts in two ways: provide opportunities to bring new audiences to UPAF member group productions and take the performing arts out into the neighborhoods. For the 2016-’17 performance season, UPAF hopes to collaborate with eight to 10 organizations serving specific neighborhoods and/or audiences. Between three to five customized, hands-on experiences will be developed that provide innovative and developmental opportunities for each UPAF Connect partner.

In addition to this initiative, UPAF and its Member Groups will continue to pick up the slack as funding for in-school arts and culture curriculum continues to be scaled back. While some may think that arts education is a luxury beyond core subjects, research shows otherwise. Arts education programming has a positive impact on a child’s emotional quotient, which is a proven predictor of future employability, lifelong success and the ability to better cope with the complexities of a 21st-century world.

This past year, each of UPAF’s 15 member groups received grants totaling $492,500, a 31% increase over 2014. This significant increase can be attributed to strengthened community efforts to improve access to arts education, as well as UPAF’s efforts to raise funds specifically for arts education by promoting membership in its affinity group, UPAF Notable Women.

UPAF’s core mission during its 2016 Workplace Giving campaign to raise needed dollars to support its member groups and affiliates goes unabated. Last year’s appeal brought in just over $12 million, a testament to the generosity of our community, and its belief in the power of the arts to educate, inspire and entertain. Without the support of individual donors, corporations and foundations, it would be just an empty stage and the consequences too dire to even imagine. We have no doubt that that when this year’s campaign ends in June, we will bring the curtain down on another record-setting year.

Peggy Williams-Smith, senior vice president, SafeHouse Restaurants, Marcus Hotels & Resorts, Paul Eberle, chief executive, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. and Paul Purcell, chairman, Baird, are the co-chairs of the 2016 UPAF Campaign.

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