Grant Update: Community Assist Grant Brings Holiday Arts Performance to Southern Indiana
“I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
– Handel’s Messiah, Song 15, Recitative (soprano)
Southern Indiana is home to an impressive share of small theaters. From Derby Dinner Playhouse and Clarksville Little Theater in Clark County, to TheatreWorks of SoIN and the Ogle Center in Floyd County, the region possesses countless outlets for Kentucky and Indiana art enthusiasts.
But while individual artistic expression has no cost barriers, the same can’t be said for affordable access to shows and performances. On top of transportation to the event, ticket costs can set a family back hundreds of dollars – a price tag that’s just not feasible for some in our community.
According to the 2021 Priorities for Progress – Assets and Aspirations in Southern Indiana report, which was produced in partnership between the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana (CFSI) and the Indiana University Southeast Applied Research and Education Center, only 45-percent of the nearly 450 respondents to the needs assessment survey agreed that people at all income levels have access to art and cultural activities – a troubling statistic for a community focused on inclusion.
“The region needs to build on existing efforts to make art and cultural activities more widely available to people across all income levels, including removing barriers to kids’ participation in school and community-based programs,” the report states.
To add more affordable artistic endeavors in Southern Indiana, the Louisville Orchestra applied for a Community Assist Grant in 2021 from CFSI, with hopes of presenting a special holiday performance of Handel’s Messiah to Clark and Floyd County residents. The organization was awarded $5,000, which went toward offering a unique cultural experience for local families and residents, who might not otherwise have had access.
Bringing Holiday Joy to Southern Indiana
“That mile-wide river can seem like 10 miles sometimes and that really bothers me.”
When Edward Schadt’s career allowed him to return to the Kentuckiana area, he had no issues living and working on opposite sides of the Ohio River. As a Louisvillian, Edward would trek to New Albany, IN for work each day, where he spent time in development at Rauch, Inc. When he got home, he would even go as far as convincing his Kentucky neighbors to get more involved in upcoming Southern Indiana events.
So, when Edward began his role as the Director of Leadership Giving with the Louisville Orchestra, it was only natural of him to think of the Sunny Side of the River.
“I always want us to try to make sure that Southern Indiana is included in our programming because we have so many people from that area who regularly come and attend concert series and shows. So as much as we can, I want us to reach out across the river,” Edward says. “When the possibility came up for a concert of Messiah, I knew it would be a good idea to get one in Southern Indiana, specifically Clark County.”
Since the Louisville Orchestra has a presence in Floyd County thanks to its programming at the Ogle Center on the campus of Indiana University Southeast, the organization hadn’t reached Clark County residents since its RiverPops Orchestra Concert Series at the Riverstage ended in the summer of 2019.
That eventually changed when the Orchestra stumbled upon Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Jeffersonville. According to Edward, the church was very receptive to holding a live performance in their large sanctuary, and actually had the space and amenities available to pull it off.
But while the 2019 version went off without a hitch, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the performance for 2020, putting the entire Southern Indiana program at risk of not being renewed. However in 2021, with pandemic restrictions easing, the Orchestra was able to re-engage conversations with local community leaders about resurrecting the holiday performance for Clark County residents.
“We were engaged with Southern Indiana once before, so I contacted (CFSI President & CEO) Linda Speed since we knew each other,” Edward recalls. “I remember I told her that I would love the Orchestra to do something in Jeffersonville since the Riverstage wasn’t going, and she directed me to the Foundation’s Community Assist Grant program. It was just what the doctor ordered.”
The Community Assist Grant program supports local programs or activities through a one-time grant, with a goal of positively impacting the lives of people living in Clark and Floyd counties. Organizations can apply for any amount up to $5,000 – which is exactly what the Louisville Orchestra did.
While a $5,000 grant isn’t enough to support an entire performance, the funding was used to help increase access to the performance through affordable ticket prices, including offering discounted tickets to students and a sliding scale option for those in need.
“Giving those who don’t typically have an opportunity to access our performances is a huge push for the Orchestra right now. It’s really the direction we are going as an organization,” says Jessica Burleson, Manager of Institutional Giving at the Louisville Orchestra. “We have done that often in Louisville and found success with it, so I would love to see us able to do that across the bridge in Indiana because I feel like the arts are so essential for children and the community. In this time of recovery from COVID-19 and social unrest, music can be such a great healer for our community.”
Messiah: A Holiday Showcase
Thanks to the support from the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, the performance of Handel’s Messiah went on as planned on Dec. 5, 2021. A total of 159 people were in attendance, with 28 musicians sharing their art with the audience. Many even stuck around following the performance to express their gratitude for the opportunity.
“I was supposed to meet my sister for dinner after the performance, but I was late meeting her because so many people came up to me afterward and just started talking,” Edward recalls. “They said two things, really: they expressed their thanks and asked when we could do it again. And again. And again.”
While the performance was a smashing success, more importantly, it brought arts, culture, and creative expression to Southern Indiana, which is essential to maintaining a rich community life and contributing to growth, community, and economic development. Their hope moving forward is that their impact reaches beyond one performance, creating ripples in the community that improves the region’s overall cultural health.
“I think it’s essential to have a connection with the Community Foundation for us to cross that bridge,” Jessica says. “Having the buy-in from the community is so important, and having that financial support is hugely important for us to be able to continue to do these types of things in the future. We could not have done that performance without the support of the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana.”