The board and staff of Folk Alliance International would like to share an overview of where we are at for the year ahead, our financial situation, our commitment to cultural equity work, and finally, to announce the decision made regarding our next in person conference.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, on April 24th we announced our decision to suspend all in-person events for the remainder of 2020, to change next year’s February 2021 conference to a virtual event, and to focus on providing enhanced online resources, webinars, and opportunities to connect.
While we provided an immediate response, we will soon be circulating a survey for artists to respond to in order to help us understand their evolving needs, and we continue to work directly with key advocacy partners including the Arts Industry Sector Council, the Alliance of Performing Arts Conferences, and the Performing Arts Alliance.
As of July 1st we started a new fiscal year, with a very different and challenging reality. We had to lay off staff, suspend our internship program, cut expenses, and deliver our first deficit budget in over two decades, for the next two years ahead. The impact of COVID-19 will erode nearly a half-million dollars from our reserve over the next two years. In order for Folk Alliance to survive and thrive, we need your financial support.
While we have successfully secured emergency funding from the Paycheck Protection Program as well as Cares Act support through the Mid-America Arts Alliance and the National Endowment for the Arts, we ask you to reflect on the value of our role as an international arts service organization dedicated to serving, strengthening, and engaging the global folk music community through preservation, presentation, and promotion.
We will be launching a series of fundraising campaigns soon, and we ask you to join the board and staff, all of whom are annual donors, by giving as generously as you can at this time.
We especially encourage monthly sustaining donations, which create predictable income that we can then use to budget for new programs throughout the year.
One of the areas of work that we will not be putting on hold this year is the development of a
Cultural Equity Plan.
This follows five years of internal board and staff training on intersectional social justice, outreach and program development with underrepresented global majority communities, and the thematic focus of our last conference and global summit in New Orleans.
Based on our values and training provided by Americans for the Arts, last January we released a statement that commits Folk Alliance International to advancing cultural equity policies and practices that empower a just, inclusive, and equitable music industry.
We acknowledge that there are systems of power that grant privilege and access unequally and that as an organization, as a community, and as leaders (personally and professionally), we must hold ourselves accountable and actively engage in dismantling systemic racism.
To that end, we are assembling a Cultural Equity Advisory Committee to undertake a year-long community engagement process in order to develop a formal plan that will guide and inform future policies, programs, outreach, and business approaches.
A dedicated webpage will be launched by the end of this month with detailed information about this work and we invite you to visit it regularly and to join us in this effort.
Regarding the next conference, while we will present a virtual conference this February, we have been able to negotiate a new date decision with our host hotel here in Kansas City, informed by many business and community considerations.
Last month over 800 past-conference attendees completed a survey to share their feedback about health, travel, weather, and business concerns regarding conference timing between the only three dates the hotel had available for us at the same room-rate cost to attendees (one in November, one in February, and one in May).
While the survey indicated a slight favoring of moving to a fall date, we have ultimately made the decision to keep February as the time period for our future annual conferences.
Consequently, the next in-person edition of our conference in Kansas City will take place February 23-27, 2022, followed by an additional two years in the same hotel.
This decision will provide needed planning consistency for the community at a time when so many things are in flux. Holding it in February will minimize any negative impact for our partner and Regional events, it ensures maximum time for COVID-19 related health, travel, and gathering issues to be addressed, and it is the most stable business decision we can make at a time when we cannot afford additional risk.
We’d like to thank the staff and management of the Westin Crown Center hotel who have been very patient, flexible, and realistic as we have grappled with the reality of our contract and our event during these unprecedented times.
The staff and board of Folk Alliance International are excited to be of meaningful service to you at this time, and in the years to come.
We thank you for the various roles you play, for the creativity and joy you bring to audiences everywhere (albeit online right now), for your collective grace and resilience at this time,
and for your continued support of the work we do.
Have a very safe summer, and we’ll see you as soon as we can.
Please visit folk.org/donate to learn more about how you can support us and the folk community.