Shepherd Express: UPAF Launches Fundraising for Local Performing Arts

The United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) has proven to be the rock that many local performing arts organizations need to remain above the raging waters of a world where audiences cannot gather in person. On Wednesday, March 3, at 5 p.m., they will launch their 2021 Community Campaign to raise funds for the arts with a virtual gathering, show and discussion.

UPAF regularly raises vast sums to support performing arts organizations such as First Stage, the Milwaukee Ballet, The Rep and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, among a total of 14 member groups. These artists will provide entertainment in a pre-show starting at 5 p.m. before discussion with community leaders begin at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Speakers at UPAF’s event includes the group's own CEO, Patrick Rath, alongside other representatives of UPAF and of member groups, who will offer remarks on the current state of the arts and the need for local arts organizations during the pandemic.

Since March 2020, UPAF member groups reported more than 1,500 canceled performances and anticipate losses up to $22.7 million. Up to 75% of staff and artists were laid off, furloughed or took a pay cut. UPAF allocated $8.4 million for their member groups during the previous fundraising campaign, securing the jobs and creative output of numerous local performers.

UPAF receives no government funding, and every dollar raised for the arts came from generous donations. With the start of their 2021 Community Campaign, UPAF is counting on the public to come out in support of the arts once again. These donations will allow performing arts companies to retain talented individuals so they may continue to contribute to Milwaukee’s cultural life, be it virtually or in person with safety measures, and so they will still be in Milwaukee when the pandemic comes to an end.

The event will be streaming on the UPAF Facebook page. For more information, visit