Arts Integration as a Pathway to Unity in the Community: The (Ongoing) Journey of Pillsbury House + Theatre

Jun 04, 2014
  • Description

This report is a 2013 study of how a nonprofit theater and a social service agency that happened to reside in the same building rediscovered their shared history as a 19th century Settlement House, and unified operations to become a 21st Century Center for Creativity and Community. In 2008, Pillsbury United Communities -- a network of five community centers, 70+ programs, and 8 business ventures in the Twin Cities -- made the unusual decision to hand over leadership of its largest facility, Pillsbury House Neighborhood Center (PHNC), to Faye Price and Noël Raymond, co-artistic directors of Pillsbury House Theatre. The theater had gained acclaim with almost two decades of professional productions reflecting contemporary social issues of relevance to its diverse South Minneapolis neighborhood. However, Price and Raymond had a larger vision to have high-quality arts underlie all of the Center's services to increase the individual and community creativity needed to tackle serious socio-economic challenges and revitalize the neighborhood. The journey is told through stories and interviews with more than 30 staff, artists, program participants, community and civic leaders, residents, and funders. It is supplemented by data from independent program evaluations from 2010-2013. The report (by veteran journalist and arts funder Nancy Fushan) documents not only what happens as the staff attempts to embed the arts in almost every aspect of the organization. It explores factors that contribute to success and thechallenges that informed further change and evolution. Pillsbury House + Theatre (PH+T), a center for creativity and community, shares lessons learned that may be of value to other nonprofit organizations that are contemplating a "re-imagination" of their work at this considerable scope and scale. The insights may also be of interest to artists, educators, evaluators and those in the human services and philanthropy fields.