Reinventing Icicle Creek: Arts organization awarded $80,000, launches new programs
Thursday, February 2, 2012
LEAVENWORTH — Icicle Creek Center for the Arts announced three major developments Thursday: The launch of three new programs, plans to break ground on a new theater this spring and The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation granting the arts organization $80,000 for market research.
It’s all part of the non-profit’s reinvention of itself as an all-encompassing arts hub, executive director Sheila Hughes said. After several years of declining ticket sales and diminishing returns from its investment portfolio, the 20-year-old organization is fighting back by expanding.
“It sounds counter-intuitive but it will prove to be a powerful tool in strengthening the organization and making it relevant,” Hughes said.
For years, the organization’s core was classical music, a genre that was hit especially hard when the recession began in 2008.
“We’re keeping the classical music base but we’re growing, and with this grant, we can do so much more thoughtfully and deliberately as we increase our programs,” Hughes said.
The two-year grant will allow Icicle Creek to contract with a Chicago firm to study how to build local audiences and bring in more people from the Seattle area, Hughes said. Through surveys, focus groups and market studies, Hughes hopes to design a longterm plan on how to expand Icicle Creek’s scope to include more master classes, retreats, festivals and performances.
“Any organization right now that is truly looking at their mission and how to deliver that mission in the current economy and adapting to that is of interest to us,” said Jim McDonald, senior program officer of the Allen Foundation. He said the foundation was impressed by the non-profit’s strategic plan to change its mission.
“It’s a different world out there, and Icicle Creek has been proactive about how they can become more of a destination spot while delivering programs that the community wants and needs to be inspired,” McDonald said.
In the meantime, Icicle Creek officials plan to launch three new programs based on feedback they’ve heard from the arts community:
Vox Docs, a film festival featuring award-winning documentaries, will premiere at the Sleeping Lady Chapel Resort in late March. The organization chose six films to show: “Miss Representation,” “Louder than a Bomb,” “Buck,” “Wasteland” and “These Were Our Lives.”
The Creative Residency Program will provide up to six weeks of housing and studio space for artists to develop or finish new work. The inaugural group includes author Suzanne Botelli, opera soprano Rachel DeShon, composer Norm Durkee, theater director Brandon Simmons, classical guitarist Greg Ruby and painter Molly Magai. Applications are available at icicle.org.
Biologist and artist Heather Murphy will teach a four-weekend course called “The Art of Nature: Journaling at Four Seasonal Retreats” that combines bird watching with the arts throughout the year.
In April, the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts will break ground on a new barn-inspired theater on its Leavenworth campus. The 240-seat theater, funded by philanthropist Harriet Bullitt, is tentatively scheduled to be finished in January 2013, depending on how fast the snow melts this spring. The new facility will replace Icicle Creek’s use of the Sleeping Lady Chapel Theater.
“What happens here is magic. It’s a gorgeous place, we have committed staff and a theater that’s underway,” Hughes said. “As you bring more people into that experience, it has an effect of amplifying the organization. Ticket buyers turn into fans, fans turn into donors, donors come back to volunteer. That’s how an organization renews itself, is through the people it serves.”
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139
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