With new funding program, an effort to improve Columbia's arts community

Sunday, September 2, 2012 | 4:40 p.m. CDT; updated 9:35 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 25, 2012

COLUMBIA — An almost depleted fund, shrinking budget and reduction in grant money has led Chris Stevens to find new ways to fund the arts. 

Stevens, the manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs, hopes the Columbia Arts Foundation will eventually provide enough money to increase the amount available for community art events and local arts organizations.

About the Community Foundation of Central Missouri


The Community Foundation of Central Missouri is able to accept donations for the fund in forms such as cash, individual estates, stocks and bonds. If real property such as land, business or art is donated, then the Community Foundation of Central Missouri can convert it into cash.

The Community Foundation of Central Missouri is a nonprofit group. 

Including the arts fund, it manages 32 funds at this time. 

There is a administrative fee of 1 percent charged to accounts of less than $500,000 for services such as making receipts, accounting, bookkeeping, monitoring the online account and investing the money. The percentage fee decreases as there is more money.

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Cultural Affairs distributed $96,000 in October to 19 local art agencies and venues for the 2012 fiscal year. But, like most years, the amount of money requested was almost double the office's total budget of $358,591.

By drawing on an additional $10,000 to $15,000 each year from a restricted fund, the office was able to contribute an average of about $5,000 to each organization. The office has used this fund for the past several years to increase the amount of money it can give to local art agencies.

With 35 percent less in state grants available for city-sponsored programs this past year and expectations that the restricted fund will run dry in fiscal 2013, Stevens came up with the idea of a local arts foundation.

“Perhaps we can give out more money with the hopes that these agencies can do more than what they’re doing now, provide more programs for the city, more art opportunities and art events,”  Stevens said.

The city manager's office has budgeted a contribution of $10,000 to seed the fund before seeking contributions from companies, private donors and organizations.

“By giving funds to us, we’re going to help the entire arts community,” Stevens said. “It’s not just focused on any one entity. They all have their needs, and they all have their opportunities for programs and services themselves, but by giving to us, you’re going to help the entire arts community.”

The Columbia City Council will hold a public hearing on establishing the foundation when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The nonprofit Community Foundation of Central Missouri would administer the fund, and Executive Director John Baker said establishing documents have already been through the city’s legal department. 

There would be a fee of 1 percent to administer less than $500,000, and the percentage decreases as there is more money.

People can already donate to the Office of Cultural Affairs, but the money goes into a checking account. The foundation would be able to invest in stocks and bonds and accumulate interest.

“With this being a city fund, it’s probably going to be fairly conservative,” Stevens said. “We’re going to look at long-term growth; we’re not here to make a buck real quick. We’re going to make sure that money is safe and sound but still grows over the years.”

For instance, if the fund had $3 million with a 5 percent growth rate, the fund would make $150,000 in interest annually, Baker said. 

“The hope is, like with any big foundation or endowment, that it grows big enough you can just use the interest,” Stevens said. “So whatever interest you gain every year that is what you peel off and use toward these special opportunities and our annual funding and you never touch the principal." 

But the fund will have to grow into the millions before these investment earnings can support the ideas independently. 

"We hope there will be generous people who will donate," Baker said. “Arts may be the soft things of human life, but they make life more rich.”

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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Mike Martin September 3, 2012 | 11:33 a.m.

Another chapter in the Great CoMo Arts Budget Battle, which kicked off publicly in January, when protests about inadequate funding for a garage art project prompted city administrators to increase it by $13,000.

Though it sounds friendly on the outside, this latest move threatens to de-prioritize what little, hard-fought public arts funding Columbia enjoys, relying instead on uncertain donations, which -- in the ultra-competitive world of donor-supported non-profits -- have never proven a strong source of local arts funding.



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