Poncho refocuses on arts education
The Patrons of the Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations, an arts fundraising entity that will turn 50 in 2013, is refashioning itself as a champion of arts education.
The impression many people have of Poncho — the Patrons of the Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations — is that it throws an annual gala where privileged people dress up and drink.
Well. That needs to change, says the 49-year-old arts-funding organization.
As Poncho prepares for its golden anniversary next year, it is revitalizing its purpose with a keen focus on arts education.
The group's new Arts Education Initiative seeks to ensure that all K-12 students in King and Pierce counties have access to arts-education programs. Poncho hopes to do this through strategic investments; collaborating with arts organizations, funders and the education community; and advocating for arts education.
In other words, groups won't have to knock on Poncho's doors for help. Poncho will come to them.
"We're trying to make a deeper impact within the arts and be able to remain relevant and sustainable," said Lorna Kneeland, Poncho's executive director.
The initiative marks a new start for the Poncho board after several years of tumult, including the 2008 ousting of Executive Director Gordon Hamilton and the decision that same year to replace the annual gala with smaller wine and art auctions.
Since then, Poncho has been looking for ways to move forward while preserving its legacy as a nonprofit that has nurtured the city's cultural life.
Poncho started right after the World's Fair in 1962, when the Seattle Symphony put on a production of Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida" and ended up $35,000 in the hole.
At a cocktail party not long after, a group of high-profile Seattleites wondered how Seattle could have just been on the world's stage — but had a symphony that was in the red.
They raided their own wine and art collections, held an auction and bailed the symphony out — and then some. Organizers raised not only $35,000 to cover the symphony's deficit, but another $50,000 that was used to start the Seattle Opera.
It also started a trend that continues today: fundraising through auctions.
"It was the start of auction madness in our region and across the country," Kneeland said.
Since then, Poncho has raised $35 million, the fruits of which everyone can see all over the area: The Poncho Theater at the Woodland Park Zoo. The Poncho ticket office at McCaw Hall.
The education initiative is already at work. Poncho is trying to lend its fundraising expertise to help Seattle Public Schools develop a long-term arts-funding strategy. And in a partnership with the Raikes Foundation's Youth Program Quality Initiative, Poncho will reward arts-education groups for maintaining quality programs.
"Our biggest hurdle is for people to understand the new Poncho," Kneeland said.
"Not that we're not going to have parties, but education is our driving force."
Nicole Brodeur: 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.