Motivated by increasing budget cuts to the arts in education, the organization decided to see what it could do to help remedy this situation.
“Money for field trips to theaters and even for bringing arts groups to the schools has whittled away,” says Suzette Hart, vice president of the foundation. “It’s getting harder and harder for schools to provide kids with cultural enrichment opportunities. We thought if we could fund some of these opportunities, it would be a step in the right direction.”
The foundation’s “Spring for the Arts” annual luncheon was the launch pad for a discussion regarding this issue and the subsequent decision to create a pilot program to bring performing arts productions to the elementary schools.
Buildings were selected based on specific criteria, namely a high percentage of free or reduced lunches.
“We wanted to specifically reach those kids who lack opportunities and access to live theatre,” adds Hart.
The foundation then researched performing arts companies with traveling outreach groups and compiled a list of those that were able to fit within the program’s budget.
The list was given to the principals of Woodin, Frank Love and Woodmoor for them to choose which group they would like to visit their schools.
The first performance was byTears of Joy Puppetry out of Portland and Seattle’s own 5th Avenue Theatre’s touring company with its production of “Klondike,” a show about the Alaskan gold rush.
Funds for the program are provided by a Target Arts + Culture in the Schools grant, as well as by individual donors in the community.
The foundation hopes to take the program into more schools in the future and would like to make it a pet project for its annual “Spring for the Arts” event.
“If we can show people the success of this program and the number of kids reached, then we have a good chance of continuing it in the years to come,” says Hart. “That’s our goal, but we’re definitely going to need more financial support for that to happen.”
Hart notes that NPAC itself is doing well and remains in the black – no small feat for a performing arts venue in these challenging economic times.
“We’ve had to make some strategic decisions,” she explains. “For example, we have a working board now and not a paid staff. And we’ve had to be very thoughtful about the decisions we make. But, we’re really excited about where we’re at.”
NPAC’s 600-seat venue, which is on the campus of Bothell High School, was established by Northshore area residents who were committed to bringing a cultural center to their community.
Each season, it offers from six to eight shows, most of which are family-friendly.