Milwaukee Business Journal: UPAF Community Campaign launches with $11.3 million goal

Margaret Naczek | March 3, 2021

The United Performing Arts Fund kicked off its 2021 Community Capital Campaign with a target goal of $11.3 million to support the performing arts community.

The 12-week campaign is co-chaired by West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. senior vice president and chief financial officer Heather Dunn; Medical College of Wisconsin's senior vice president of strategic alliances and business development Greg Wesley; and BMO Private Bank regional president Steve Johnson.

“The performing arts often reflect the moment in time and plays a vital role in helping our community heal,” Wesley said in a press release. “When we can safely gather, the performing arts will be an inspirational leader to so many corners of our community. Every gift is appreciated. It is like a ‘standing ovation’ for the thousands of artists that make this community home.”

The campaign runs through May 26. In an extended campaign in 2020, UPAF's fundraising totaled $11,358,693 with an additional $304,000 in grant revenue.

UPAF's president and CEO Patrick Rath said UPAF's 14 member groups experienced a collective loss of over $22 million as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2021 fund will help assist these groups in innovating and welcoming back audiences safely.

"The importance of this year's campaign is we're reaching as many people as possible," Rath said. "We want people to embrace the love of the arts that they've always shared and had and they haven't been able to embrace them for so many months and now over a year. ...This is a way for us to give that standing ovation and say thank you."

This year UPAF launched its 2021 Community Campaign virtually on its Facebook page. Rath hosted along with Tim Mattke, UPAF’s board chair, the three campaign co-chairs and various local artists representing UPAF member groups.

Proceeds raised will go to the 14 different UPAF members to continue both on-stage work as well as educational programming. Rath said UPAF members' education programs reach over 90,000 school children in the greater Milwaukee community, and two-thirds of Milwaukee Public Schools have an arts activity thanks to one of these member groups. UPAF also will continue its Kasey's Fund, which works to break down obstacles toward accessing the arts.

"This might be due to physical or mental illness that creates some sort of handicap which we can overcome but also those who have been incredibly socially distant during this time frame, especially our older adults who have been really without their family and loved ones around them," Rath said. "The arts are a way to break through that and help them reconnect and be in their own space where they're comfortable but also to do that in a way which they can invite more of their friends and neighbors."

The UPAF member groups are: First Stage, the Florentine Opera, Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Skylight Music Theatre, Bel Canto Chorus, Black Arts MKE, Danceworks, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Next Act Theatre, Present Music and Renaissance Theaterworks.

CLICK HERE to view the article on the Milwaukee Business Journal website.