Last month, Business & Arts NL successfully wrapped up the first portion of ArtsSupport NL – a new 18-month program that aims to strengthen fundraising practices and build donor engagement within the local arts community. The five-day intensive training session was held at Rocket Bakery in St. John’s and brought together a dozen not-for-profit arts and culture organizations around the province with consultants from RBR Development Associates Ltd. (Read more about the program in our previous Spotlight.)
No stranger to supporting the arts and encouraging community engagement, Rocket Bakery gave Business & Arts NL a significant corporate sponsorship in support of this latest initiative. Kelly Mansell, Rocket’s owner and sales/marketing manager, says considering the current state of the economy, “training for fundraising is critical for all the arts groups that attended, so we wanted to help.”
“We decided to partner with Business & Arts NL recently because we really believe in the symbiosis between the arts and business. Rocket’s a case study of how, by supporting each other, business and the arts can thrive,” Mansell adds.
“I find artists, in particular, are truly understanding of the fact that we have to pay the rent so, when we share our Rocket Room or Orbit Room with them, they always encourage their groups to buy a meal here rather than elsewhere because it means we can keep on sharing!”
During their seven years in business, Rocket has supported arts and culture in the city in various ways, including sponsoring groups/events such as Lawnya Vawnya, 709 Roller Derby, Opera on the Avalon’s annual performance at Rocket, the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, Shallaway Youth Choir, and various high schools in support of their charitable fundraising efforts.
Rocket, Mansell says, is all about embracing fun and positivity, which shows through their decor as well as the various events they’ve been proud to host. One example, she says, is last May’s “Bunty’s Umbrellas: A Craft Council Gallery Pop-Up Exhibit,” which featured 10 embellished umbrellas hanging from the food hall ceiling to honour local embroidery artist Bunty Severs.
“We also had the cast of the Arts & Culture Centre’s ‘Tartuffe’ serving customers one Saturday last fall in order to help promote their upcoming shows. That was super fun! Really, at this point, I think that if we had acrobats swinging through the ‘rafters’ our customers wouldn’t be phased!” Mansell says.
“I think that’s why the arts appeals to us so much – it can be thought-provoking and educational through various (often fun) mediums…It all adds to the atmosphere which people tell us they really enjoy.”
Looking to the future, Mansell says she has lots of ideas for how to help revitalize the city’s downtown core. One of the things she’s interested in creating, she says, is an “Art & Design Zone.”
“We have the opportunity to do something here on Water Street by supporting artists, giving them a home and opportunities to showcase their work. They add beauty to our world and where the artists are, business always follows. I’ve seen it happen!” she says.
Pointing to an example, Mansell recalls when she opened the flagship boutique for Comrags on Queen West in Toronto back in 1997. There were few boutiques west of Bathurst Street at the time, she says, and she worked with others to try and find ways to bring more people to the area.
“As a group of galleries and retailers, we even took out an ad in the Globe and Mail together encouraging people to ‘Talk a Walk on the West Side.’ That area’s now called West Queen West and considered part of Toronto’s ‘Art & Design District.’ I believe Comrags was one of the first retailers to offer its window to the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival as an ‘alternative’ exhibit space,” she says.
“There are lots of ideas and I think our new city council would be up for any kind of innovation that would contribute to the health of the downtown core.”