As I throw myself head first into the nonprofit arts sector for a summer internship at the Cleveland Orchestra, I find myself flooded with questions. Initially, the questions are manageable, easily conquered: Where do I park? Should I wear a tie? How many times will I get lost until I find my way to the education office?
The further I delve into the organization, though, the more daunting the questions become. These questions can even impose on the validity of our existence as a sector. For those of us who are committed to the advancement of nonprofits, they are questions that make our hearts skip a beat: Can we, the arts and culture sector, find enough funds to continue operations? Is our programming relevant to the needs of our community? Are we making a difference?
Economic failures have taken a huge toll on our entire country – the corporate world, nonprofits, and everything in between. We’ve been watching our pennies, both as a nation and as individuals. It’s no surprise that community action organizations, health organizations, arts and culture institutions, and educational facilities are taking a hit.
I’ve realized that now is the time in which the nonprofit’s role is most crucial. Economic downturn widens the gap between corporate America and government services, leaving a heavy load on the shoulder of the nonprofit.
It’s been just two weeks since I began my internship and I’ve seen that gap first-hand. Public schools in the Cleveland area are in desperate need of resources. Facilities are being closed, forcing the remaining schools to operate with nearly overwhelming numbers of students. Qualified, impassioned teachers are being let go. Art and music classes are no longer the standard, but a rare luxury for children.
The Cleveland Orchestra, and a host of other similarly dedicated organizations, is doing great work to provide children with creative and academically stimulating programs. Children not only get a glimpse into a sometimes overlooked world of music and art, but are encouraged to think outside the box in whatever homework assignment, task, or future job they might encounter. The programs are not just about music; they are about building competent, creative, and passionate community members.
With all these inspiring things happening around me, the answers to my questions are emerging: YES, we are relevant to the community; YES, we are making a difference, and YES, the next generation of nonprofit leaders is committed to maintaining that impact.
Each week we use this space to give each of our interns a chance to reflect on their internship experiences. Placement: The Cleveland Orchestra. School: Baldwin-Wallace College.