Although they provide assistance to a large number of local arts organizations like the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, Fort Wayne Youtheatre, Fort Wayne Ballet, and Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Arts United each year hosts its own major event, one which puts those groups front and center but also brings in additional performances, food, and entertainment.
That annual event, Taste of the Arts, has blossomed into a huge weekend, bridging Friday evening events with a full slate of activities on Saturday.
To say it takes a village to pull it off would be an understatement.
So how does an event that size, with that scope, come together from a staff of only 19? The truth is that it doesn’t.
Secret or their success
The key to the success of the event lies in their team of volunteers. And for those who might be wary of what such a commitment might entail, the staff of Arts United wants to put your fears to rest.
“We have a whole slew of people of all different types,” said Coby Hanna-Butler, donor and stewardship manager for Arts United. “There are many who come and work inside the Arts United Center so they can stay in the air conditioning. But we also have jobs outside — set up, tear down, ticket takers, and all of the gates have people who provide information and help people figure out where they want to go.”
Each year their ideal goal is to bring in between 100 and 150 volunteers, and last year they had 90 supporters helping with Taste of the Arts 2018. Those people represent a remarkable sampling of our local arts supporters.
“We have a little bit of everyone from across the board,” Hanna-Butler said. “We have older people who will take some of the sitting jobs, but we also have younger people and people with special needs who come to help us every year.”
“It can also be a family affair,” added Rachelle Reinking, communications manager for Arts United. “We have a few families who come down every year and help out. And some high schools require some kind of community service so they’ll come down to get in some hours for that. We do require that volunteers be 16 and if they’re young they have their parent’s OK. But the fact that we had 90 last year — considering the weather we had — goes to show how dedicated our volunteers are.”
Rain or shine
While some years see Taste of the Arts taking place in one of the summer’s last scorchers, last year’s was greeted with monsoon-like conditions which eventually subsided.
But Taste of the Arts goes on in any weather. Bringing in people who will offer their time and then follow through is a process that takes place throughout the year.
“We reach people through our mailings and try to be as active as we can be,” Hanna-Butler said. “We also team up with some of our bigger local businesses, like Lincoln and Ash Brokerage. We also do a push on social media and do some recruiting during the Thursday on the Square food truck days in the summer.”
“We also have a presence at the YNLI farmer’s market,” Reinking said. “And every year we participate in a volunteer festival at Turnstone. They turn the entire hall into a series of booths, and they often put the Arts United booths in a row so we’re there with our friends from the Civic and the Philharmonic and all of our arts friends.”
Dozens of events and artists
Taste of the Arts begins on Friday, Aug. 23, with a live version of Meet the Music with Julia Meek, the popular WBOI radio show, as well as the Parrish Leasing Block Party which is open to all ages.
While Friday night runs from 5-10 p.m., the big event is Saturday, Aug. 24, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. With a variety of booths, interactive stations, and performances galore, the day offers a chance for those who might not partake in local arts events a chance to see what Fort Wayne’s vibrant arts scene has to offer. For those who routinely attend such performances, it offers a family-friendly way to share the arts and sample some of the many fine restaurants there are in this city.
Other events include the Kekionga Plein Air Event and the NIPSCO STEAM Park, a place where the STEM disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math embrace the Arts for a fully rounded education.
The Artlink Art Market will host more than 40 artists and artisans with a wide array of art mediums will provide numerous options for purchasing art to take home, and there will be 10 stages throughout the downtown arts campuses where more than 70 different area performers will share their talents.
Kids activities and interactive options will be available at every turn.
Serving is caring
Being able to serve the thousands that attend Taste of the Arts is why volunteers are so crucial to the operation and success of the event.
“Giving time is as good as if not better than giving money,” Hanna-Butler said. “Each of our organizations also need volunteers at various times of the year. For example, Fort Wayne Ballet needs volunteers for The Nutcracker and the Civic needs help with their sets and costumes. Even if you have no experience, we’ll all be happy to teach you ways that you can volunteer your time to help.”
“And those who volunteer to help with Taste of the Arts will still be able to enjoy the party,” Reinking said. “We don’t want to burn our volunteers out. There are four-hour shifts so that they can come down and help us out but still enjoy everything going on that day. And get a free T-shirt for helping!”
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