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BEST PRACTICE - HOW TO GET A SHOT IN THE ART

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A gallery teamed up with a local company to secure funding while benefiting the firm's staff, says William Little...
A gallery teamed up with a local company to secure funding while benefiting the firm's staff, says William Little

Manchester Art Gallery, run by the city council, needed to find funding to run its community projects following a£35m revamp. The refurbishment had come with an ambitious educational remit to deliver the council's corporate objectives to engage with people through art.

A new art gallery was built with two art classrooms which were going to be used by schools as well as by socially excluded groups.

The fundraising team had a clear objective to find funding from a big north-west business that was committed to the area and prepared to work closely with the new gallery.

Until then, the team had focused on raising funds to pay for the capital project. Fiona Corridan, the art gallery's development manager, says plans were in place to find a business partner a couple of years before the gallery reopened in May 2002.

Planning, she says, was essential as many capital projects funded by big donations around the millennium had gone downhill because no funds were allocated to run them.

While the gallery recognised its need to find a partner with strong social responsibility objectives, it also had to offer something that would attract serious funding. An opportunity to name the new gallery space after a company was decided as the best approach, which was valued at£250,000. Manchester Art Gallery had already worked out that it would need this amount to fund its three main projects: outreach, mainstream education and transport fund.

The gallery capitalised on its corporate membership programme by sounding out local company directors. As the Co-operative Insurance Society was a member and had a community commitment, gallery staff were able to talk informally at membership meetings to one of its directors. He put the case for a close working relationship to the firm's community team.

The aims of the gallery around socially excluded groups matched similar objectives at CIS. Ms Corridan says it is unusual for a firm to have such defined social objectives. The new gallery became the CIS Manchester Gallery.

The gallery's aims had a strong case because of research they had done. They knew, for example, one reason many schools would not use the art gallery was the cost of transport. The transport fund was set up to give£100 to 100 schools to pay for the use of minibuses.

Yet the relationship between CIS and the gallery went further. The gallery was keen for it to have input into projects. Curators, heads of education and outreach workers met CIS staff to discuss projects.

Both organisations have a dedicated person to manage the relationship. They meet every few weeks and talk on the phone regularly. Projects are developed by the gallery, then CIS says which ones it wants to support. In the past, CIS has supported programmes to encourage Chinese elders and black and ethnic minorities to use the gallery more often.

There have been challenges, saysMs Corridan. Both the gallery and CIS were interested in getting CIS staff involved in volunteering at the gallery. CIS was interested in staff personal development, so the volunteering scheme had to suit this need.

CIS staff were invited to train as guides for visitors with visual impairments. A structured training programme gave staff an opportunity to develop communication skills, build confidence and appreciate the arts.

The gallery had to be realistic about how much time CIS staff could give, for example the gallery could not ask at short notice for volunteers to cover in the event of a large party coming or at weekends.

The relationship was formed not only around finances but also a cultural and community partnership where staff from both organisations learn about each other. Ms Corridan says people in the arts are usually suspicious of big business, but many at the gallery were surprised to find a firm willing to put money in and help the community for such little return.

The informal relationship has been backed up by a formal review, where the gallery provides quarterly reports on the projects CIS supports. Reports feature statistics and anecdotal evidence. The number of schools and children benefiting from the transport fund and education programme, and numbers of participants in community outreach projects, in workshops and family events are included.

Because shared objectives were identified at the outset, it has been possible to deliver projects focusing on diversity - particularly minority cultural groups - and volunteering in a relatively short time, says Ms Corridan.

Ms Corridan says the success of the scheme has been built on a long-term partnership. The£250,000 that CIS gives is spread over five years. That has enabled the gallery to plan ahead and undertake challenging outreach work that can take a long time to develop.

The relationship has opened doors. When other businesses see CIS funding the gallery, they are more likely to do the same.

The facts

15,000 pupils from over 700 school groups have used the education facilities.

864 school groups - 22,000 children - came to the gallery in self-programmed visits.

14,000 people have taken part in 532 sessions on the public and life-long learning outreach programme.

40% of CIS's 9,500 staff are based in central Manchester, working only 15 minutes walk from the gallery.

Sources of funding

Arts & Business is the world's largest charity promoting and developing partnerships

between business and the arts. Programmes and services include an investment programme, training, mentoring, networking forums and advisory clinics. Call 020 7378 8143 or

e-mail: head.office@aandb.org.uk

Arts Council England offers a national funding scheme called Grants for the Arts. Call 0845 300 6200 or visit www.artscouncil.org.uk

Awards for All makes lottery grants of between£500 and£5,000 to not-for-profit groups. It supports projects that enable people to take part in art, sport, heritage and community activities, as well as projects that promote education, the environment, and health in the local community. www.awardsforall.org.uk

Barclays Social Responsibility Programme focuses on education, the environment,

the arts, people with disabilities and social inclusion. Call 01392 214747 or e-mail enquiries@southwestrda.org.uk

Big Lottery Fund was created by merging the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund. New programmes will be announced over summer 2005. More information is available at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

Find out more

Visit www.manchestergalleries.org.

Or call Fiona Corridan on 0161 235 8851

The Champion

Fiona Corridan, who has worked at Manchester Art Gallery for over five years, says she was over the moon when the CIS funding was announced.

'It had a taken a lot of work and there were so many projects that would benefit,' she says.

'The relationship has helped raise our profile in the business community and it has been good to hear that CIS is looking for other projects where they can get more deeply involved.'

The relationship is unique, she says, because it has moved away from a simple sponsorship agreement to a full partnership with shared objectives.

'It has given the people working at the gallery a big feel-good factor,' Ms Corridan says. 'There has been a real sense of excitement about community regeneration over the last 10 years in Manchester. I think it helps bring organisations and people together.'

Key points

>> Manchester Art Gallery needed a local corporate partner to help it fund specific projects

>> Joint objectives were agreed at the outset to ensure a long-term, successful relationship

>> As part of this relationship, Co-operative Insurance Society staff took part in the gallery's activities to ensure they had an in-depth understanding of its role in the community

>> Volunteer work for CIS staff had to support their personal development.

Creative business partnerships

Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery

>> Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery service has six sites, attracting around 750,000 visitors a year. Museums service manager Isabel Churcher was struggling to make the most of commercial operations. She asked the NatWest Board Bank - an organisation that encourages senior business people to join the boards of arts organisations to share business expertise - for help.

Ms Churcher was introduced to Andy Meehan, managing director of Gordon Brothers in London and former chief executive officer of the Co-operative Retail Services co-op chain, who provided objective advice and discussed solutions.

A new commercial manager was recruited to take responsibility for the retail operation, leaving Ms Churcher free to deal with strategic and investment issues.

Down Civic Arts Centre

>> Down Civic Arts Centre is a rural arts venue in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland. When Cathie McKimm took over as arts officer, its building had been empty for years. Ms McKimm had to turn the centre around while promotinginterest in arts in the area.

Through Arts & Business (see the

'Sources of funding' box for more details), Ms McKimm met Sharon Hearty, senior account director with McCann-Erickson in Belfast. The advertising agency director helped Ms McKimm create a marketing strategy to make the building more commercially viable.

Ms Hearty gained a better insight into the arts in Northern Ireland, while Ms McKimm is developing opportunities for the centre.

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