From The Publisher: Creative Collaboration

Last month, I attended a reception announcing City Theater Company’s new partnership with The Delaware Contemporary. Beginning Dec. 10, CTC will present its mainstage productions in the museum’s new black box performance space. In other words, two autonomous arts organizations are now operating under one roof.

During the reception, CTC Artistic Director Kerry Kristine McElrone got a chuckle from those in attendance when she not-so-accidentally thanked COVID — then redirected the thanks to COVID relief funds — for underwriting the necessary upgrades to the new performance space.

But as the chuckles subsided, I thought to myself:  You know, thanking COVID may sound strange, but it isn’t wrong. COVID-19 certainly knocked us out of our daily rhythm. And it provided plenty of quiet time for in-depth introspection.

So, would this creative collaboration between CTC and TDC have happened otherwise? Would a lot of the new strategies developing across all industries be taking place were there no pandemic?

I know of no business — or individual — that has simply picked up where they left off before COVID-19. In fact, the changes we have made here at TSN Media are head-spinning when I pause to consider.

Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. And moving forward, the creative economy will continually need to live up to its name.

Sure, COVID relief funds helped appoint TDC’s new Black Box space with state-of-the-art equipment. But it will take the ingenuity of both TDC and CTC to ensure that investment pays dividends. To their credit, these organizations are working in tandem to face the challenges ahead. And to that I say, bravo.

Creative collaboration. For those in the arts community, those should be keywords in 2022.

Now is the time to reinvent, rethink, reimagine. COVID relief funding was just a life rope. It will be up to each organization to pull itself into the boat. That challenge is significantly easier with less weight (overhead). Or with the strength of an extra pair of hands (creative partner).

Grants and donations will remain vital; however, we must recognize that government will be charged to replenish the coffers that provided those rescue funds. Furthermore, we must prepare for traditional funders to be more selective as they see requests for funds far outweigh the supply.

So, why not put your organization in a better position by demonstrating the inventive ways you’ve found to stretch your dollar? Explore opportunities to split space, cooperatively market, barter supplies and share personnel.

Several months ago, I had an individual responsible for corporate giving say to me: “Why does it seem like I’m getting five requests to fund the same thing?”

“That’s because you probably are,” I answered honestly. 

But what if those five organizations collaborated and made one request? It won’t work for every situation, but you might be surprised by how often it does — especially when the focus remains on the mission, not maintaining status quo.

Too often we resort to collaboration as an option of last resort. Why not reverse that thinking? Collaboration not only sends a positive message to funders, everyone involved also reaps the benefit of collective thought.

In August 2019, two likeminded but separate organizations — Wilmington Renaissance Corporation and Wilmington Leadership Alliance — merged to create Wilmington Alliance. An internal goal of the move was to make 1 + 1 = 3. So far, that math is adding up for the Alliance.

In fact, there’s a term for such an equation: synergy arithmetic. It may be new to the lexicon, but it’s one we should embrace as we emerge from this pandemic.

  Jerry duPhily

So, what do you think? Please comment below.