Stories of Resilience are Positively Fort Wayne


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Staying financially afloat during this pandemic hasn’t been easy, especially for those who make a living entertaining others. Arts United is helping 18 nonprofits in the local arts community stay on point. One of those organizations is the Fort Wayne Ballet.

“It was challenging,” said Fort Wayne Ballet Executive Director Jim Sparrow, thinking back on when his staff first got word of the pandemic. “So it was not just what can we do it, but we just have to do it. So we figured out ways to try to engage the audience.”

“They never closed during the pandemic, even during the ‘Hunker Down Hoosiers’ order by Governor Eric Holcomb last spring,” said Susan Mendenhall, President of Arts United. “They simply went virtual. Virtual programming allows arts and culture activities to be made available to even more people. So we’ve been able to serve new and different audiences and that’s been really exciting.”

What a virtual audience didn’t provide financially, Arts United did. Arts United is a fundraising and support arm for the Northeast Indiana arts community. In response to the pandemic, it created the Arts and Culture Nonprofit Resilience Fund in partnership with local donors.

“This is a community that is known for saving itself during the floods of 1982,” said Mendenhall. “It has again and again demonstrated resilience. Our community has stepped up and invested $2.8 million dollars in the continuity of these organizations and their ability to be resilient so they can continue service to our community.”

“The Resilience Fund was instrumental because it gives cash up front,” said Sparrow. “That cash was huge. It was very helpful.”

Arts United is now sharing how the Fort Wayne Ballet and 17 other local non profits adapted during the pandemic. They’re featured in a video campaign called Stories of Resilience. “We are developing a series of short form films that interview each of the leaders of these arts and culture organizations as well as some of the people who are participating in arts and culture activities,” said Mendenhall.

“Nationwide only 41 percent of arts and culture nonprofits are currently open but in our community the pandemic has not sidelined our arts and culture nonprofits, said Mendenhall. “I think the way our arts and culture organizations have responded is unique in the nation. The fact that these organizations are working together and able to serve so many more people because they’ve continued during this time of disruption is really an inspirational story.

You can a watch the Stories of Resilience on the Arts United website.

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