Following an evening of electric performances by Blair Thomas & Co., eighth blackbird, and Lucky Plush Productions, nearly 300 guests celebrated the launch of Creative Partners at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago on Thursday, April 25. A collective that provides professional fundraising to three nationally recognized arts organizations, Creative Partners provides Chicago favorites Blair Thomas, eighth blackbird and Lucky Plush responsive fundraising and administration that allows the companies to focus on what they do best: creating worldclass theater, music, and dance.
The event featured performances by Blair Thomas, accompanied by a live string quartet, in The Blackbird, Lucky Plush in a selection from Cinderbox 2.0, and eighth blackbird performing music by Derek Bermel, David Lang and Tom Johnson. Presented in breathless backtoback format, the performances sent the message that the companies share not only a dedicated development team, but also broad artistic sensibilities all are doing work that is genrebending,playful, and technically rigorous.
“The evening was a fantastic showcase for the artistic mastery and creative playfulness these three companies express in their disciplines and it demonstrated clearly why they make such perfect collaborators,” said Charles Twichell of Prince Charitable Trusts. During the event, video segments featured Artistic Director of Lucky Plush Julia Rhoads, Managing Director of eighth blackbird Jen Richards, and Artistic Director of Blair Thomas and Company Blair Thomas in conversation about the history and intent of the collective. “For small and midsize organizations, it’s the only really sustainable way to grow and to take some of the administrative burden off of the artists,” Richards said.
Initially conceived by Rhoads, Creative Partners was strategically developed in collaboration with Thomas and Richards to define the financial structure and terms, short and longterm goals,board involvement, oversight, and succession. “It doesn’t work for us to create an administrative structure that we have to fundraise for to support the administrative structure,” Thomas said.
Creative Partners already benefits from the support of the MacArthur Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts, and Director of Development Dana Horst’s position is underwritten for at least two years. For supporters, sponsors and foundations, that means that monies earned by Creative Partners directly funds art, not administrative overhead. Horst offered remarks at the event, along with representatives of the member organizations’ boards: Eva Silverman of Blair Thomas & Co., Sara Solotaroff Mirkin of eighth blackbird, and Elaine Adams of Lucky Plush Productions. Notable attendees included Peter Handler of the Driehaus Foundation, Andrew Michell and Kristen Romans of the Arts & Business Council, Dirk Lohan of Lohan Anderson architecture, and Robert Gallucci of the MacArthur Foundation in addition to prominent supporters and fans of each company.
For listeners, the event proved that the Creative Partners project benefits from the artistic vision that the participating companies share as Richards put it, “Anyone who would enjoy what eighth blackbird does with music is also going to be thrilled by what Blair does with theater, and totally excited by what Julia does with dance.” Far from competing with one another in the realm of genrebending performance art, members of the Creative Partners team are providing supporters and fans with a onestop shop when it comes to giving to the Chicago performing arts scene.
“I wondered whether Creative Partners was some kind of unworkable chimera or was actually just audacious enough to succeed,” Twitchell said. “In the end, we were convinced that it could succeed, and further, that it must to be tried, not just for the sake of these three outstanding companies, but for the arts field more broadly which urgently needs new models of sustainable administration.