Opera and musical theatre not only delights and entertains, it also helps educate, inspire and bring audiences together through a shared meaningful experience. If you’ve ever attended a performance by Opera on the Avalon (OOTA), you probably know the feeling.
Through productions such as “As One,” “Ours,” the upcoming “Shanawdithit” and countless others, OOTA has been bringing to the stage innovative, thought-provoking and bold stories since 2009 – stories that have resonated with audiences long after the curtain has closed. And through their School Tour program, OOTA has also helped expose children to the wonders of opera, while helping to foster an appreciation for music and the arts (at no cost to the students or their schools).
In less than a decade, OOTA has earned a reputation for their stellar, critically-acclaimed work, which has made an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador. (It’s little wonder that they were named ArtsNL BMO Artist of the Year for 2016).
Earlier this year, OOTA were one of the groups chosen to participate in Business & Arts NL’s ArtSupport NL program (with RBR Development Associates Ltd.) to help keep the momentum going by learning how to strengthen their fundraising practices. We spoke with OOTA’s Robin Whiffen, Director of Artistic Administration, about the experience and how it will help further OOTA’s mission.
Business & Arts NL: Why, initially, was OOTA interested in participating in the ArtSupport NL program?
Robin Whiffen: At OOTA, we were interested in participating in the ArtSupport NL program to help strengthen how we engage with those in our community and abroad. Participation in the ArtSupport NL program meant being given the opportunity to diversify our development initiatives to suit a rapidly changing provincial economy, breathing new life into how we engage with individual and corporate partners, and creating programming tailored to meet the needs of the communities we serve.
Business & Arts NL: What’s one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned thus far over the course of the program?
RW: One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned over the course of the program so far is the necessity for a compelling case for support. Many non-profits and charities have a plethora of development related documents which are used interchangeably depending on the fundraising prospect. A comprehensive case for support is an all-encompassing document that serves many purposes for the organization, beyond only fundraising. With the help of my coach Lisa, we have developed a case for support which will now serve as a multi-functional go-to document.
Business & Arts NL: Do you have any specific events, projects or activities coming up in which you’ll be able to implement some of the lessons learned? How will the program help you meet your overall goals?
RW: With a commitment to asking what stories we want to share, OOTA’s Creation Investment Fund empowers and enables new commissions, funding development of new Canadian opera that is innovative, groundbreaking, and resonant for all. The Creation Investment Fund allows OOTA to preserve the legacy of operatic work through newly commissioned operas based on stories that contribute to our cultural identity as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and Canadians. “Ours,” which premiered in 2016, commemorating the battle of Beaumont Hamel, and Shanawdithit, premiering in 2019, are two examples of operatic works that have grown from the Creation Investment Fund.
Participation in ArtSupport NL has encouraged the further growth and development of the Creation Investment Fund, allowing OOTA to continue to commission new works, as per our organizational mandate to turn our history into art.
Business & Arts NL: Please feel free if there’s anything you’d like to add!
RW: While the majority of OOTA’s fundraising initiatives are spearheaded by our General and Artistic Director, Cheryl Hickman, I was very excited to secure my first corporate sponsor upon completing the in-class segment of the ArtSupport NL training.
This is the second post in a series which will look at the ArtSupport NL program and participating organizations.
Business & Arts NL gratefully acknowledges the support of our funders, Canadian Heritage’s Strategic Initiatives – Canada Cultural Investment Fund; and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation. In-kind support is provided by community partner ArtsNL and corporate sponsorship is provided by Rocket Bakery.