An Annual Reporting for 2017
2017 was another strong year for RAAC from multiple perspectives. Our programs and events continued to hit a responsive chord in the community—sold out theater performances, standing-room-only talks, record numbers of artists and visitors to the annual Art Tour, and substantial Mitchell Arts Fund grants. RAAC programs not only entertained, but they invigorated our conversations and challenged our thinking, offered opportunities to gather with friends and neighbors, while generating energy, new ideas, and some good spirit across Rappahannock.
2017 capped five years of substantial growth in membership and contributions. Last year was notable in consolidating this growth as we remained at our high-water mark in terms of members and donations. From a financial perspective, we’re solid. Being an all-volunteer organization, we generated positive net revenue from our programs and donations—RAAC operates in the black. In addition, we have funds in the bank to cover contingencies, undertake modest capital investments, and replenish our Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund through which we award local grants. We will be conducting a financial review in 2018 by an outside accounting firm to assess our internal processes. While not required, we feel this is a responsible next step in the evolution of our organization.
Some programmatic highlights:
- First Friday RAAC Movies continued to draw devoted and new moviegoers to first- run films.
- Second Friday RAAC Talks featured writers and experts in the arts, politics, education, history, business, leadership, law, psychology, national parks, and more.
- RAAC Community Theatre produced comedy, drama, and musicals to sold-out performances. Auditions, set construction, rehearsals, staged readings, and performances brought vitality to Gay Street throughout the year.
- Soup & Soul remained the hottest ticket in town—people flocked to listen up close to fascinating artists while enjoying delicious food in neighbors’ homes.
- 13th annual Art Tour set records for the largest number of participating artists, tour visitors, art sales, high quality of art, and a spectacular Tour gallery and reception which included major artwork from the public schools.
- Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund awarded over $43,000 in grants in 2017. Over the past five years, we’ve given over $160,000 to the community—to individual artists and writers, arts programs for children and adults, workshops, scholarships, and public performances.
We did make a hard decision last year and concluded that an annual Film Festival was no longer feasible. In spite of donor support and pockets of enthusiasm, the festival required too much from our volunteers, it was challenging to find high-quality local and regional films, and attendance was light. It no longer seemed to be the best use of our resources for the community.
During our assessment and based on audience feedback, we found strong support for films combined with after-movie discussions led by subject matter experts. This finding encouraged us to develop a Film-Talkback Series that we’ll begin testing later this year. A series would consist of one or more films revolving around a theme and screened on one or consecutive evenings. Stay tuned!
The Board held a very productive strategic planning retreat last summer. A major focal point was the “C” in our name—Community. We challenged ourselves to find new ways of expanding participation in existing RAAC programs and developing new ones with broader appeal. We’re now exploring with the public schools ways to support the arts, drama and writing in the schools in 2018 and beyond. We’re also expanding our summer acting workshops with Rappahannock children. We’re talking to other nonprofits to find additional ways to collaborate, and we’re exploring entirely new programs.
One of RAAC’s strengths is its Board—full of talent, energy, camaraderie, and commitment. While turnover is rare, three beloved members retired from the Board (Bette Mahoney, Nedra Smith, Nancy Keyser), and two new members joined (Tammy Gill and Pete Pazmino). While we’ll miss our former colleagues, we know that adding new views and skills is important to our vitality—truly a balancing act. Look for profiles of Tammy and Pete in upcoming RAAC newsletters.
On our website you’ll find helpful information about upcoming programs, board members, volunteer opportunities, and online ways to donate and reserve tickets. Another source of timely arts information is our monthly RAAC Newsletter, the go-to place for what’s happening in the local arts scene.
RAAC is energized and guided by our belief that a community infused with the arts is stronger, livelier, and more connected. This conviction has remained true since our founding 35 years ago. Our organization rests on three pillars: dedicated and talented volunteers, artists and participants who make our programs happen, and supporters who contribute to RAAC so generously. All of this underlies our mission tp Inspire Art and Build Community!
Matthew Black, President
Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community