Facilitating the Arts With Nancy Burd
Category: Interview
Written and Edited by Kellie Hanna
Interview performed in person by A. Thomas

AT: Please briefly describe the origins and purpose of CFF
NB: The Cultural Facilities Fund was established in 1992 out of the Nonprofit Facilities Fund in New York, a group that acted as a technical and financial assistance provider for nonprofit organizations. They found that there were issues specific to cultural organizations [regarding] the maintenance and management of their facilities. CFF was created to try to meet those needs, establishing offices in areas that were known to have an abundance of cultural centers, which turned out to be--not surprisingly--in major cities. There are offices in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Massachussetts, and San Fransisco. There seems to be a race among cultural organzations to find money. CFF tries to help them to do so.

AT: What kind of background do you have that brought you to CFF?
NB: I was the development director for the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania for six years; I helped to establish and start the museum there.

AT: What do you feel is the greatest asset that your organization offers arts and cultural groups?
NB: A place where they can get information, assistance, and funding. There are other groups out there that offer assistance, some that offer information, others funding; but not a combination of all three. We try to help these organizations take a holistic approach to to the management of their facilities.

AT: What types of groups does CFF provide services to? Do you only deal with established groups, or do you also offer assistance to new organizations?
NB: We deal with all types of groups. We will offer [free] seminars, technical information and assistance to any cultural organization. We offer our services to anyone; however, we only offer financial assistance [by means of loans and grants] to established institutions that have a facility, but are in need of expansion, equipment, or renovations.

AT: What is the criteria you look for when deciding whether or not an organization will be helped by CFF?
NB: We will help any cultural institution, but we only offer financial assistance to those with a budget of less than 5 million dollars. This focuses our work on the small-to-medium sized organizations. Groups such as the Franklin Institute [and] the Philadelphia Museum of Art already have the established financial backing. These places are welcome to our seminars, but they don't usually attend. They already have the structure with their organizations to maintain their facilities.

We provide financial assistance to any group that qualifies as a "cultural organization." We are [currently] working with a small zoo in Norristown, PA, since they are technically labelled as [such]. Financial assistance such as grants are offered if we feel that what the organization is trying to accomplish is within the scope of their means. We would have to see that the grant would help them to reasonably set themselves on their way; that by giving them the grant they would be able to accomplish a set benchmark; to be able to move forward in the early planning stages of a project. We will also provide low-interest loans to groups that will be able to generate the capital to repay them. For instance, a theater with poor lighting or a leaky ceiling won't be able to bring in any money, so a loan to be able to repair their facilties will enable them to generate those funds.

AT: What would you say are the major obstacles faced by cultural organizations today?
NB: Not money so much. I'd say that it's the inablitiy to have enough staff and time to properly manage themselves. Most cultural organizations set out to achieve certain goals, and those goals are constantly growing. They are attempting to fulfill more and more needs, and extending themselves beyond their resources. But this is the nature of nonprofit. Their generosity makes them extend beyond the scope of their means.

AT: Do you ever deal with individual artists in need of funding or assistance on projects?
NB: No. We only deal with the organizations that they are involved with.

AT: As a national non-profit resource, you are probably aware of a number of resources available to artists. Do you care to share a few of them?
NB: Sure. Let's see: locally, in the Philadelphia area there is the Pugh Fellowship for the Arts. They are a fantastic organization. In Minneapolis, there is a loft, the McKnight Fellowship Program; it is a literary fellowship program. And I'm not sure if the National Endowment for the Arts is still offering fellowships.

AT: What sort of resources do you feel are currently lacking for artists? In what areas do you hope hope to see more support?
NB: There are not a lot of artists' co-ops. These groups are extremely important. There are a lot of artists, but surprisingly few co-ops. There are [a few] still around, but they are important because they give artists a community in which to do their work, and also gives them a gallery where they can be displayed. It's very hard to get a show in a gallery, and co-ops give them that space.

AT: It's like a step, would you say, to get a name to be able to have those shows?
NB: Yes. It's a very important step. I think that I would be very eager to support the development of more co-ops in the Philadlephia area.

AT: What do you feel is the most important thing(s) that artists and cultural organizations should do in order to best help themselves?
NB: They need to empower themselves; make themselves available. The general public has an impression of artists as being very aloof, but that is generally not true. They are [often] very insular; they need to come together and help each other more. When I was at the Institute for Contemporary Art, we hosted the Mapplethorpe exhibit. For us this was a kind of test. We needed to see if we were going to get the backing and moral support that we needed from other groups in the city, and it didn't happen. Artists need to come together more, support each other, and stop trying to achieve everything on their own.

AT: Is there anything else you feel you should add to this discussion?
NB: No, I think you've done a pretty good job at picking my brain.
AT: Thank you.

Cultural Facilities Fund Program - National Office
70 West 36th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 11018-8007
Ann Seamster, Program Director

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