Time for round two: announcing our next investment cohort
On Wednesday we announced the next five organisations to receive unsecured loans from the Arts Impact Fund, who together will receive £1.93 million worth of investment. They are:
- Autograph Media – £150,000: to set up a new commercial image licensing business specialising in race and cultural diversity. Autograph Media is the trading subsidiary of the visual arts charity, Autograph ABP, based in Shoreditch.
- London School of Mosaic – £600,000: to fund a property refurbishment in Lewisham to create a venue for a new mosaic focused education programme.
- Live Theatre – £600,000: to launch a new commercial hospitality venture, making use of its capital assets to subsidise the work of the theatre in Newcastle.
- Second Floor Studio and Arts – £280,000: to buy and develop new artists’ studios – called The Deptford Foundry – in South East London.
- Soho Theatre – £300,000: to set up a new digital content subsidiary that will film comedy content and licence it to broadcasters, digital platforms and distributors, creating new opportunities for artists and reaching new audiences.
This means that we have now committed just over £3 million from the £7 million Arts Impact Fund, with demand continuing to grow. So far nearly 100 cultural organisations have expressed interest in receiving support from the Fund, many of whom we continue to work with in our active pipeline, and as our visibility within the sector increases, we hope that more and more organisations will feel this is an affordable and appropriate funding opportunity for them.
The second round of investments reaffirms our early perceptions of the strong entrepreneurial spirit of arts organisations and their desire to become more resilient by growing their asset bases and diversifying their revenue streams. Our new investees reflect real diversity and ingenuity, as does our forward-looking pipeline; the projects we are supporting them to develop address issues in infrastructure, educational provision and digital technology in the arts, among others.
This round of investments also reveals a trend towards a model of cross-subsidy in which income from commercial activities funds an organisation’s artistic and social benefit work. This is the case with three of our investees who will use their loan to develop an unrestricted source of income of their own. Live Theatre will transform one of its property assets into a new commercial hospitality venture, the latest of a number of social enterprises the charity is successfully running. Autograph Media and Soho Theatre, in turn, will make use of their sector-specific expertise and resources to develop a commercial strand of work that complements and further supports their charitable activities.
The Arts Impact Fund team was encouraged by the use of intellectual property (IP) and digital technology to underpin arts organisations’ drive towards greater financial resilience and independence, attesting to the sector’s commercial potential. This points to the importance of exploring innovative practices that make the most out of arts organisations core competencies and resources and, as Arts Council England emphasises, help public funding go further. The Arts Impact Fund is one of the mechanisms that can help make this happen. As a social investment fund for the arts, it aims to encourage and support initiatives that are artistically valuable, socially impactful and financially sustainable. We think that pursuit of these objectives in tandem can bring about many synergies, through partnerships, new operating models and a focus on communicating the impact made. In turn, this creates greater value for audiences, communities and funders.
The Arts Impact Fund is still open for applications with at least two more funding rounds in 2017. The fund brings together investment from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Nesta and Arts Council England, with additional support from the UK branch of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Organisations can apply for an unsecured loan ranging from £150,000 – £600,000 at affordable interest rates over 3 to 5 years.
The Arts Impact Fund team is keen to increase the diversity of organisations we support in terms of predominant art form, geographical region, size or approach to making social impact. We will be visiting York, Sheffield, Leeds and Hull and planning an event in the South West in the coming months to engage with and discover organisations that might be interested in applying to the Arts Impact Fund or wish to know more about its work. We would love to hear from you if your organisation is based in any of those areas!