Advocating for African-American arts

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Art helps define who we are and what is important to us. High Point Fund: Supporting African American Performing Arts was created to foster awareness in the community of the unique and important role African-American performing arts groups play in defining Milwaukee’s artistic and cultural identity.

Milwaukee is home to nearly a half dozen African-American performing arts organizations. Some, such as Ko-Thi Dance Company and Hansberry-Sands Theatre Company, have been part of Milwaukee’s cultural landscape for decades. But all of the organizations have traditionally operated with very lean budgets, with little funding available to promote professional development, expand staff, or mount more complex productions.

"Gifts have come mostly from small contributions from individuals in the black community who care about the arts and the community," says Venora McKinney, cofounder of High Point and one of the driving forces behind the fund. "But we’ve been fortunate to also have a great partner in the Milwaukee Rep, which allows the High Point Fund to have one performance a year for a fundraiser."

Close partnerships with the Milwaukee Rep and a number of local foundations have also helped the fund reach a goal of $200,000 to provide permanent support for Milwaukee African-American performing arts organizations.

The organizing groups – African American Children’s Theatre, City Ballet Theatre, Hansberry- Sands, The Heritage Chorale of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Rep – were brought together by cofounders McKinney and Sarah O’Connor. Each group now receives an annual grant that can be used to help the organizations strengthen their ability to enhance Milwaukee’s African-American performing arts.

The name for the fund represents a "high point" when the participating groups and the community came together to support the important work of Milwaukee’s African-American performing arts groups and artists. The High Point Fund – and those who support it as well as those who benefit from it – will continue for years to come.

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