Spencer Fane LLP's commitment to arts funding dates back to 2006, and the early days of the campaign for the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
"We made a $75,000 challenge grant at the beginning of their fundraising efforts. That obviously was a large donation for us," says Nate Orr, a partner at the firm's headquarters in Kansas City. He heads up the charitable giving program.
In 2015, Spencer Fane narrowed its focus to give one non-profit arts organization a $50,000 donation over a three-year period, starting with the Kansas City Art Institute. This year's pick: Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.
"We believe it enables us to make a larger impact on the arts organizations we're supporting," says Orr. "And it also provides our employees with additional opportunities for employees to get involved with our firm's causes."
Heart of America Shakespeare Festival was founded in 1991, and has produced free outdoor Shakespeare productions in the summer months in Southmoreland Park since 1993. In recent years, the organization has added indoor performances — script-in-hand and full productions, as well as collaborations with arts groups like Bach Aria Soloists and Kansas City Chorale. They also offer classes for children and adults.
"This is our 24th season and, then next year will be our huge 25th year," says Sidonie Garrett, executive artistic director. "So the next three years are sort of key years, in terms of establishing and sustaining our current programs, as well as attempting to increase what we do."
Garrett says the three-year funding from Spencer Fane includes extra benefits, such as legal advice and a volunteer network. And, she says, knowing that there's a base of support allows them to "dream a little bit." The Festival's summer production of Twelfth Night opens June 14.
Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter, @lauraspencer.