UPAF Launches “UNITE with UPAF” Collaborative to Lift Community Spirits

UPAF | April 21, 2020

The United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) is launching “UNITE with UPAF” Collaborative to help lift the spirits of the community during this time of great uncertainty.  Partnering with its 14 Member Groups, UPAF is offering free virtual performing arts experiences, both live and on demand, to showcase music, dance and theater.  The Collaborative hopes to bring the community together – virtually – to enjoy the arts.

“The performing arts have the power to enlighten, inspire and nurture our souls,” said Deanna Tillisch, UPAF president & CEO. “The current difficulties we all face due to COVID-19 make this connection and engagement even more important.  We are fortunate to have a dynamic performing arts scene and incredible local talent that can virtually come into our homes and entertain us when we need it most.”

UPAF compensates its Member Groups for performing, which is important at a time when arts organizations and their artists have limited to no income.  Additionally, UPAF is providing funds to enhance the technology needed for Member Groups to deliver digital performances.

The Collaborative also presents the opportunity for individuals and families to participate in a UNITE with UPAF Live! virtual event that will be held in May. This online event will showcase the performing arts’ impact on the Greater Milwaukee Area through performances and testimonials from UPAF Member Groups, arts advocates, business leaders and community members. UPAF will be hosting a “casting call,” inviting people to submit videos of performing while at home.  Watch upaf.org and UPAF social media pages for upcoming details on UNITE with UPAF Live!.

UPAF also announced that the 2020 UPAF Campaign, which kicked off on March 3, will be extended to August 31. The additional two months will provide the time required to raise dollars to sustain UPAF Member Groups. Cancelled performances and fundraisers and closed schools and academies have created significant challenges for all 14 organizations.  Collectively, Member Groups are projecting an $8.3 million loss in revenue this season alone.  Over 500 employees have been furloughed, laid off or seen salaries reduced.  A total of 509 performances have been cancelled, impacting 200,000 patrons.


Besides funding entertainment excellence, UPAF also raises dollars to increase accessibility of the arts.  Due to the pandemic, over 65,000 children are missing out on arts programming and almost 30,000 individuals living in underserved neighborhoods are not experiencing performances, workshops and distinct activities.

According to Tillisch, UNITE with UPAF will support Member Groups in delivering tailored programming for children now learning remotely.  UPAF is also partnering with a number of social services nonprofits to ensure digital experiences have a broad reach.  For the 2020 Campaign, UPAF is leading a special initiative — Kasey’s Fund — to raise seed money so Member Groups can sustain and hopefully increase their outreach efforts. This initiative is named after UPAF President & CEO Deanna's daughter, Kasey — a great lover of the arts who has cognitive and physical disabilities. Donors can support Kasey's Fund and ensure “A Stage for All” with a new or increased gift to the 2020 Campaign.

“UNITE with UPAF Collaborative presents the opportunity to demonstrate why the arts matter, especially at times of crisis,” said Tim Mattke, CEO of MGIC and Chair of the UPAF Board of Directors.  “We need the performing arts for their cultural, educational and economic value. In addition to delivering the best in music, dance and theater, UPAF Member Groups generate millions of dollars for our local economy. On both a spiritual and measurable level, we need the arts to get through this pandemic a stronger and more unified community.”

Watch upaf.org and UPAF’s Facebook page (https://facebook.com/upaf1) for upcoming information on free programming, including live performances, workshops and learning guides for children and more.  

About UPAF

The United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) has been setting the stage since 1967 by providing critical investment in our region’s vibrant performing arts scene. UPAF’s mission is to secure community resources, promote the performing arts as a regional asset and improve the quality of life through responsible investment in and financial support of the performing arts in Southeastern Wisconsin. In 2019 UPAF raised more than $11.9 million to support the area’s performing arts environment. UPAF proudly bears Charity Navigator’s highest distinction for nonprofits – a four-star rating – and is the No. 1 united arts fund in the country in terms of dollars raised.

As an umbrella organization, UPAF supports a breadth of performing arts groups that collectively offer something for everyone through its 14 Member Groups and numerous Affiliates. More than one million people are touched each year through performances, educational outreach, special events and community partnerships.

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