As funding for the University’s major arts organizations dwindles, the value of student support has grown.
The Ackland Art Museum, Carolina Performing Arts and PlayMakers Repertory Company all have membership or volunteer programs that allow students the chance to foster, however small, a sense of relief.
h6 (liner mb). Donations and gifts:
3 Primary UNC arts organizations
$15 Ackland student membership
18 Student donors for CPA
$3.2 million Gifts to all three organizations
The Ackland, which has had its free volunteer organization Student Friends of the Ackland since 2004, introduced a new student membership program in August.
For a donation of $15 a year, students receive some of the perks of being a monetary supporter of the museum, like a discount at the Ackland Museum Store which opened in May, and free or reduced admission to museum programs.
Diana Poulimenos, president of Student Friends of the Ackland, said all membership funds go back to the Ackland to support programming and operational costs.
And, though Student Friends of the Ackland does not directly bring in revenue like the student membership does, Poulimenos said the Friends reach out to students and make them want to contribute to the museum.
“We all are involved in the Ackland because we really love it,” she said.
The Ackland receives $1.3 million, or 58 percent of its current $2.3 million yearly budget, from endowments, membership and annual fund dollars and sponsorships.
The University gave $823,000 to fund the museum this year, which covers 36 percent of its budget. Its share has fallen by about $250,000 since 2008.
Carolina Performing Arts also has a student donor level, starting at $35 rather than $15.
Emil Kang, executive director for the arts, has said Carolina Performing Arts draws from a large pool of alumni and student donors to generate a quarter, or $1.1 million, of its current $4.5 million budget.
The University funded only slightly more at 29 percent this year, about $1.3 million. Since 2005, its share has fallen from 75 percent of that year’s $3.5 million budget.
There are 18 undergraduate and graduate members currently listed as donors for the 2011-12 season.
Senior Amy Kim has been donating to Carolina Performing Arts since her sophomore year, drawn in not only by the prestigious performers but the low student ticket prices.
“Carolina Performing Arts really values student participation in their shows,” Kim said. “They’re making it cheap, affordable.”
She has so far given $70 over two years, and plans to give another $35 before graduating.
“It’s like a thank you note,” she said.
Kim said that giving the $35 donation as a student wasn’t an overwhelming commitment.
“$35 is a couple of dinners,” she said. “I think a good show like that, appreciating shows like that, is worth a lot more than a couple dinners at Bandido’s.”
Fernando Chague, a fifth-year Ph.D candidate at UNC, said his small contribution — he has given one $35 donation — is his way of giving back.
“It’s not contributing so much, but I think I owe them,” he said.
Senior Katey Mote, a house manager at Memorial Hall, said Carolina Performing Arts has been an important part of her college career, and that she wants to make sure it sticks around for future students. She gave her first $35 donation this year, prompted by the budget cuts.
“It’s not a lot, $35, but it makes a statement,” Mote said. “That students are willing to give some of what they’re making.”
PlayMakers is the only organization of the three without a specified student giving program.
Their lowest giving level of $25 is accessible to but not specifically targeted at students, said Heidi Reklis, general manager of the company.
She said the company sees student volunteers and work-study participants become involved and give their time rather than money.
Reklis said PlayMakers tries to keep students on a large project rather than everyday operations.
“One of my favorite things about my job is interacting with the students,” Reklis said. “To see them develop a love for the arts is always really interesting and kind of great.”
PlayMakers received $800,000, or 32 percent of its annual operating budget, from philanthropic gifts and $700,000 from the University this year.
Reklis said the support has recently begun to fall more heavily on the arts community as corporations and grant foundations have found themselves in similar monetary shortfalls.
“There are more people seeking fewer dollars,” she said.
She also said that associate drama department chairman Jeff Cornell is in the process of creating a student advisory board structured similarly to their existing advisory board. Targeted at undergraduates, the board would look at how the company can cultivate a donor base among students.
Beyond giving money, visible student support can influence others to contribute, Poulimenos said.
“We’re lucky that we have a museum at the university,” she said. “If we can bring attention to it in any way, that’s a benefit.”
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