We had the good fortune of connecting with Bernadette Carroll and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bernadette, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
Almost every non-profit arts organization is at a disadvantage, especially in the fundraising department, when is comes to dealing with a mass public perception that the arts are expendable. This perception was magnified even more when the COVID-19 pandemic drove everything to a halt. Arts organizations that rely on the earned revenue stream of ticket sales and admissions, were shuttered. And understandably, donors, corporations and foundations that typically fund arts programs pivoted to support health and human services. At the same time, the arts also bloomed as a form of self-expression in dealing with the emotions brought on by the pandemic: people coming together to serenade health care workers, impromptu concerts streamed by musicians, chalk art messages of encouragement and more.
What non-profit arts organizations have in spades is savvy, creative thinking staff. Across the state, arts venues were coming up with brilliant ways to weather the storm of the pandemic to keep their non-profits afloat and relevant. We also applied for every source of funding that was offered to support the arts and we shared those resources with our peers. At Act One, our main field trip program for Title I students came to a halt on March 12, 2020. Instead of sitting idle until schools and arts organizations reopened, we spent the last year and a half developing the first ever Virtual Reality field trip program for schools. This month, Act One will reopen our traditional field trip program bringing Title I students back to arts venues in Phoenix and Tucson. This program is a fraction of the size that it was pre-pandemic, but we are certain that we will return to serving 50,000 students again soon. At the same time, our VR field trip program will start traveling to schools across the state…to students we would never had been able to serve due to their remote locations. Our VR program opens the doors to schools that are in rural and remote areas that have little to no access to arts programs. By bringing our VR field trip program to these schools we can introduce even more children to arts and their powerful impact. Our hope is to inspire these young minds through the arts and build those future audiences, artists, creative thinkers and supporters. To learn more: https://act1az.org/vr-field-trips/
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve been in the non-profit arts sector for over 25 years. I lucked into it because I realized early on I didn’t have the natural talent to be an artist, but I knew I wanted to be surrounded by those that could create. I started with a work-study job at the arts and crafts center at Penn State, teaching kids arts camps, then ended up becoming the Director upon graduation. I moved to Vermont and worked in a fine art gallery for two years before landing the Education Director role at Burlington City Arts where I built the arts education programs from the ground up for their new arts center. From there I moved to Arizona and worked for the West Valley Arts Council. At the Council, I got my experience running everything from festivals, public arts programs and major music events. After seven years there, I left to take my first Executive Director job at the Scottsdale Artists’ School. But as fate would have it, two years later the Executive Director job opened up at the West Valley Arts Council and I was recruited back to my old stomping grounds. I believe this was meant to be. Shortly after my return to the arts council, my daughter was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Being in an organization that I had deep roots with along with an amazing support system, is what got us through this life changing ordeal. (She has been cancer-free for over 4 years now). After seven years as the E.D. at the arts council I landed the job with Act One. I started two weeks before the pandemic closed everything down. After dealing with cancer, you learn to take things in stride.
I did get to attend one field trip prior to the shut down and that experience affirmed that I had chosen the right organization to work for. I was at the Phoenix Art Museum with over 100, 6th and 7th grade students from a nearby Title I school. When the docent asked the group to raise their hands if this was their first time at the museum, over 90% of the hands were raised. I was blown away. At that age, my children had been to dozens and dozens of arts experiences, museums and performances. Yes, I am in the arts field so I am biased, but to see that a majority of these older kids had never been to a museum, really struck home. To work for an organization where our mission is to make the arts accessible to all children? Now that to me, is something to really be proud of.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Living on the westside of town, we tend to spend time outside hiking in the White Tanks. In Verrado, where we live, we have a couple of great restaurants and coffee bar: Grazie, Tempo and Ebb and Flow. When we have guests that haven’t been to Arizona we love to take them to Cave Creek and Sedona.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Ten years ago, Act One was founded by two entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Mac and Russ Perlich. They saw a massive inequity in Title I schools that were unable to attend arts programs, specifically field trips to arts venues, due to lack of funding, resources and transportation. They created Act One, a non-profit arts organization that works with arts venues and schools in Phoenix and Tucson. Act One coordinates all the logistics for teachers and covers the costs for students from low-income areas to attend field trips to museums, theatres, symphony halls and more. Act One envisions a time when all Arizonans acknowledge the value of creative arts experiences as a significant component of educational advancement and personal well-being. The Perlichs’ deserve major recognition for having the foresight to see that the arts should be accessible to all and creating a non-profit organization to address the inequity.