Our Stories: The changing future of the arts

Contributed Community

By Kim Brown

One month ago today, on March 13, members of the Coronavirus Task Force presented its first press conference announcing a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. Little did most of us realize how quickly our lives would be altered from the complacency of the normal to the urgency of sheltering in place and social distancing.

Because the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center (MMCC) is not defined as an essential business in times like these, immediate decisions had to be made in the operation of our multi-disciplinary arts facility to ensure survival. In fact, the very next morning we closed our doors to the public and sent our five part-time staff members home until further notice. Only two full-time staff members are working in the Center while the remaining are working from home.

We are so fortunate to have a concerned and involved Board of Trustees and an experienced, devoted Board chair, Betsy Morehouse, and treasurer, Steve Briley, who both without blinking dove right in with me and Lisa Rhyne, finance director, to make difficult decisions.

Along with the changes in staff presence, we immediately rescheduled or cancelled 10 days of events, events which had taken literally months of planning, marketing, advertising and fund-seeking to bring to life. Refunds from pre-sold tickets had to be processed, and reports to granting agencies had to be filed to ensure we could retain those hard hard-fought programming dollars. That one afternoon in March affected the Do Tell! Storytelling Festival, two educational performances for children and three April Chamber Music events. Plus, our beloved Madison in May Tour of Homes was postponed until September. These events provide critical funding to carry out our mission as champions of Madison’s architectural heritage and cultural character through preservation, arts, education, and humanities. Hopes for the last two Chamber Music concerts scheduled in May disappeared last week. These events cancelled a portion of the livelihoods for over 35 performers and technicians.

Our government’s desire to respond to the nation’s needs changed unemployment laws and caused traditional granting opportunities to disappear. New State and Federal grant and forgivable loan opportunities appear and disappear almost daily. The learning curve to keep informed of these requires diligent research and follow through.  

In the meantime, social media has become more active; events have become virtual; and meetings occur via conference calls and digital apps. Telecommuting, however temporary, is the new norm. Our future is changing along with how we look at it, what we do with it, and how we actually do it.

During this time, please be assured that the Board and staff of the MMCC are committed to seeing that this community and the arts have a bright, however different, future. We are ever so grateful to our sponsors, donors, members, and volunteers. We couldn’t be prouder of those who stand with us in answering the invitation and opportunity to respond to a wonderful future beyond these dark days..

Kim Brown is the executive director of the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center

A word from our Chair, Betsy Morehouse . . .

We are closed, and we hate it!  But if you want some Cultural Center vibes, please take advantage of this beautiful weather and stroll around our front law – lounge on a bench – visit the horses and other sculptures – give a nod to the bust of Robert Turnell and the urn given by the Colonial Dames.  Read the two historic markers near the road.  Check out the architecture and the impressive bell tower. Ponder the fact that the recent article in Garden and Gun Magazine referred to the Center as “hulking!”  What?  That means it must be very important! Finally, know our staff and Board are busy trying to take advantage of the slowdown to catch up on everything that gets postponed during busy times.  By the time we see you at the Independence Day celebration, we hope all this will be a memory!

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