Home News & Events Quarterly Newsletter News & Events Summer 2015—Special Edition: Celebrating 30 years of Arts Midwest

Summer 2015—Special Edition: Celebrating 30 years of Arts Midwest

A letter from President & CEO, David Fraher

Dear friends, colleagues, and supporters,

Over the past few months, as Arts Midwest enters its 30th year, our staff has had many conversations about how best to celebrate the array of our accomplishments over the decades, while at the same time not leaving out the current exciting programs and future initiatives.

This concern for balance, between past and future, is very reassuring to me, as it is an indicator of our staff’s embrace of a culture in which the future is always anticipated with curiosity, optimism, and excitement; of their endurance through adaptation and evolution; and their determination to lead change on behalf of our mission and our constituencies.

Since 1985 Arts Midwest has been dedicated to bringing the joy, wonder, and astonishment of artistic experience to our region’s countless communities. We nurtured a more vibrant and more diverse cultural leadership. We brought cultural treasures of the world to the smallest and most isolated communities of the Heartland. And we took our cultural heritage and vitality to the world’s stages and galleries!

We succeeded because we were blessed by the incredible leadership of more than 150 volunteer board members over our history, each of whom gave countless days to the process of ensuring not only fiscal responsibility, but also that our hard-earned resources were spent wisely, ensuring the greatest possible impact.

What we achieved also resulted from the tireless work of the many staff members who made Arts Midwest their home. Each of these individuals brought insight, passion, and dedication to their tasks, and we are the richer for that.

People who know me well know one of my favorite quotes from T.S. Eliot’s, “Four Quartets”:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Arts Midwest is celebrating 30 years—30 years of programming, 30 years of creating new connections, 30 years of bringing artistic and creative experience into thousands of lives, and 30 years of exploring. And yet, it still feels like we are only just beginning. Each day the region is new again, each day the mission is fresh. Each day we get to discover it all as if for the first time. And we are so thrilled and grateful that you chose to be on this exploration with us!

An anniversary celebration such as this cannot occur on a single day or at a specific time. We chose to celebrate this milestone throughout the entirety of the year. We are celebrating by looking back on our successes and by looking forward to the journey ahead. We are celebrating with deep gratitude because we know that none of our work would be possible without the support and sacrifices of each of you.

And by the way…because this is a celebration, there will also be food! We’ve invited many of our friends to share their favorite recipes with us—those that reflect our regional roots, the abundance of the harvest in the Heartland, and some too fabulous not to share.

Stay tuned as we continue our journey and our celebration. And enjoy a letter and recipe from our first board chair, Judy Rapanos. With that, let the party begin!

David Fraher

30 years of supporting our region’s cultural leaders

There are many stories we’ve shared about Arts Midwest over the years, and a majority of these are accompanied by beautiful photos of performances, exhibitions, and festive events. While at the heart of our work, such projects are not all that we do.

Less well-known, but just as important, is our 30-year investment in strengthening the Midwest’s cultural leadership. We recognized early on that achieving our mission required far greater resources than we could ever muster on our own. With that in mind, we committed, first, to functioning as a catalyst for constructive change and, second, to the development of a diverse army of leaders with whom we might accomplish our work.

Since 1985, we conducted an array of programs which—through training, mentoring, experiential engagement, and networking—deepened the capacity of our region’s cultural leaders. Many of these efforts utilized our unique multi-state role to gather people from disparate and distant communities to learn, share stories, and build supportive professional bonds.

Arts Midwest Conference

One of our most established programs, the Arts Midwest Conference, launched in 1988, and in the ensuing years successfully convened 27 times. The conference continually provides performing arts presenters, managers, and artists with the knowledge, information, and support they need to succeed in delivering exceptional performances to Midwestern audiences.

New colleagues meet with mentors at the 2014 Arts Midwest Conference. Photo by Joshua Feist.

Consider this: the average attendance at an Arts Midwest Conference is at least 950 individuals, each of whom spends four days on-site, attending workshops, seeing performances, and networking with colleagues. That adds up to more than 100,000 person-days of training, professional growth, and leadership development provided by Arts Midwest over the past 30 years.

2015 David J. Fraher Future Leaders’ Fund Awards

This year, the 28th Arts Midwest Conference will bring together more than 1,000 individuals in Kansas City, Missouri. And as we have for the past six years, Arts Midwest will continue to invest in the next generation of our region’s arts leaders when we welcome three David J. Fraher Future Leaders’ Fund award recipients to the 2015 Conference.

2015 David J. Fraher Future Leaders' Fund award recipients

These awardees, pictured above, will join an alumni group now totaling 13 individuals who were given the opportunity to participate in the conference events on a full scholarship, taking part in workshops and networking events, and developing mentor relationships that will last well into their new careers.


Arts Midwest remains a persistent force in exploring new approaches to creating and sharing knowledge across geographic and cultural boundaries.

Today—and in the months and years ahead—our commitment to leadership development perhaps is best exemplified through ArtsLab.

Designed to support the development of healthy business models and to nurture cross-sector relationships, ArtsLab participants have successfully used the knowledge they gained to build stronger organizations—from creating better finance and fundraising systems, to enhancing board structures and marketing plans.

Our geographic focus has also grown to not only include cultural leaders from Minnesota, but also North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa. Our goal is to eventually bring ArtsLab’s innovative curriculum to the entire region.
At present, 39 organizations are actively engaged in year-long capacity building and planning efforts as part of ArtsLab.

Minority Arts Administration Fellowship

One of the most profound examples of our work in the arena of leadership development—and one which continues to make a great impact across our region and nation today—can be found in Arts Midwest’s Minority Arts Administration Fellowship Program, a five year effort begun in 1989 (with leadership funding from The Ford Foundation) that identified and supported mid-career professionals of color, creating new pathways for them to achieve meaningful leadership positions in arts organizations.

I applaud the foresight, courage, and innovative spirit of the leadership of Arts Midwest and its constituent state arts council directors in supporting human ideals of first voice, cultural equity and access for people of color to be represented in decision-making positions in the arts. It is through such programs that America’s cultural perspectives will truly be reflective of the demographics of its population, and the infinite richness of its collective heritage.
— John Seto, Special Projects Associate, California Arts Council
Minority Arts Administration Fellow

Through the program, 25 arts and cultural leaders were placed in positions of significant responsibility in carefully recruited host organizations around the country.

In addition to shadowing senior staff and organizational CEO’s, the Fellows were given responsibility to build new programs; lead fundraising or marketing efforts; attend and participate in board meetings; and interact with constituents and the broader community.

Arts Midwest supported their involvement in national conferences; professional development seminars; provided on-going individual mentoring; and provided a fair living and travel stipend to compensate each fellow during the nine months of their fellowship.

The Arts Midwest Minority Arts Administration Fellowship was the most pivotal professional opportunity of my career.
— Regina Smith, Senior Program Officer, The Kresge Foundation
Minority Arts Administration Fellow

Now years later, many of the Fellows currently hold or held positions as directors of major museums; as artistic directors of theater companies; as program officers of major foundations and public sector arts agencies; and as CEOs of an array of non-profit agencies. While there is no doubt that each of these individuals would have achieved success, the program helped open new doorways, while also removing some of the detours on their individual roads to success.

David reunites with Minority Arts Administration Fellows in 2010.

30 years of creating new connections

Arts Midwest has always sought opportunities to bring cultural leaders together, expanding their knowledge and enhancing their professional capacity.

The Cultural Dialogue Conference was a three-day summit in 1993 that convened artists, administrators, and cultural workers from African American, Asian American, Latino, and Native American communities throughout the Midwest for seminal discussions related to funding equity, cultural advocacy, and strengthening communities.

From 2001–2005, our State Arts Partnership for Cultural Participation Project (START), funded by The Wallace Foundation with consultation support from Harvard’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, convened leaders from 13 state arts agencies to build a framework for creating and articulating their public value.

The U.S./Mexico Project in 2002 convened more than 50 arts leaders from across the U.S. and Mexico to plan and develop bilateral cultural exchanges and collaborations.

The Arts Learning Xchange, funded by The Wallace Foundation between 2009–2012, created a learning network for Twin Cities arts organizations to identify, develop, and share resources on audience development.

A letter from Arts Midwest’s first Board Chair, Judy Rapanos

On September 11, 1985, I was pleased to announce “we are merged!”

With much to offer between the two coasts, two regional arts organizations from the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes areas merged to form Arts Midwest—we conceived that together we could make an even greater impact on our arts communities.

About eighteen months earlier, representatives from the two regions met at O’Hare Airport in Chicago to discuss the possibility of a merger. We went back to our boards and proceeded to move forward with the idea, formulating program and operations committees, and establishing a two-year plan. But within a year Arts Midwest was fully operating and charging forth with ambition.

Thirty years later I am delighted to see that Arts Midwest has never veered from its mission but has expanded and developed new programs, collaborations and partnerships not only in America’s heartland but nationwide and internationally.

Congratulations to Arts Midwest on thirty years of outstanding leadership and to its board, staff—and especially to David Fraher, President and CEO. You have exceeded my expectations and I know you will continue and expand the great work you do.


Judy Rapanos

Peach Crunch

Longtime resident of Michigan, Judy Rapanos shares a delicious recipe perfect for the summer season. She notes the most important instruction, “I always double the recipe, as my family ‘inhales’ it!”

Peaches, Eastern Market / Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Flickr user AZKOPhoto, CC-BY 2.0<br />
Peaches, Eastern Market / Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Flickr user AZKOPhoto, CC-BY 2.0

Best made with peaches grown locally—Judy recommends Grand Traverse County peaches for fellow Michigan bakers.


  • Fresh peaches (approximately 8), sliced, sugared and sprinkled with cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp, salt
  • 1/2 melted margarine
  • 1 c. oatmeal (dry)


  1. Combine dry ingredients with margarine.
  2. Sprinkle over peaches in 8 × 8 baking pan.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees 25-30 minutes or until browned on top. 
  4. Serve with ice cream.