Big business meets niche art

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(Photo courtesy of Laurier Musical Theatre)

Funding a small arts-focused organization can be difficult. Costs incur for production, events, promotions and theatre rentals, and when operating on a dime, it’s stressful at times.

However, there are ways to get around this. Government and university grants are available, the most accessible for the Laurier community being the Council for the Intellectual and Cultural Development of the Arts (CICDA). However, the applications are time consuming and sometimes have little return in regards to funding.

Laurier Musical Theatre (LMT) is an organization on campus that is funded through CICDA grants and Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union special events funding. Liz McNeil, this year’s president, has gone beyond just these sources of funding and explored another option for non-profit arts organizations: corporate sponsorship.

This past Sunday, LMT hosted a series of workshops from 12-5 p.m. in the Arts Building. With each one catering to the unifying theme “Express Yourself,” the entire event was part of a final challenge in the Samsung Mobiler competition run by Campus Perks in an attempt to personify Samsung’s new campaign slogan, “Pursue Your Passion.”

“I’m very passionate about expression and artistic freedom and creativity… and not necessarily things relating to only musical theatre,” McNeil explained about Sunday’s event.

Four workshops, including a dance session taught by Bernadette Gomes and an improvisation class taught by Nick Carswell, both dedicated LMT members, brought out over 20 people Sunday. An impressive number considering the lack of advertising LMT used on campus. Other workshops included arts and crafts and cake and cookie decorating.

“It’s not something that we have done in the past,” she continued. “My focus right now is to provide opportunities for the club that aren’t centered on our production.”

With four top prizes of $1,500 available to the winners of the Samsung competition, LMT was given $500 to create the interactive event on Sunday, which was more appealing than filling out a tentative grant.

“[The grand prize] would be huge, for our production and for throwing more events like the one we had [Sunday]” said McNeil. “I really do think there is a demand for these types of events.”

Concerns over the integrity of the content that these small organizations produce after partnering with corporations are always present in our minds as observers. Will the corporations have an impact on content once they are sponsors? Will they use this content for purposes other than how we, or the organization, think it should be used?

Alternatives to direct funding, including crowdsourcing.com, a website dedicated to connecting multiple individual donors and small projects or organizations through a creative online platform, are emerging, but these types of funding are very insecure.

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