Since 2008, the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County has worked tirelessly to promote the arts and to highlight the diversity of the region. It has grown to more than 260 arts and culture organizations, artists and creative business members.
But last Thursday morning it was the Alliance's moment to shine as members and leaders from around the region gathered for a ribbon cutting at its new home at the Gate Lodge in Mathews Park. The Alliance outgrew its space at the Fairfield Theatre Company building in downtown Fairfield.
"I wanted to share with them my appreciation as a legislator for what they do," said state Rep. Tony Hwang, R-134.
"You are looking at an organization that works so hard to promote and raise awareness about the arts and culture in our community, yet they sometimes forget to promote themselves and what their mission is.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to put the Alliance smack dab in the middle of Fairfield County in this beautiful location. It's important for me, even as a Fairfield legislator to come to Norwalk to support the mission of the Alliance, that it's not just for Norwalk or for Darien, but it's for all of Fairfield County, and that includes Bridgeport and Stamford. Art should have no borders."
Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia shared Hwang's sentiments.
"We are all in this together. There are no borders or geographical barriers between the cities and people in the county," Moccia said.
The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County's mission is to support cultural organizations, artists and creative businesses by providing information and services that build capacity; building partnerships that create financial benefits for members; promoting a unified arts and cultural brand for Fairfield County -- FCBuzz.org; and creating a unified voice for the cultural sector.
"Our biggest accomplishment is affiliating over 260 members with 150 non-profit organizations that are part of the Cultural Alliance--the work that we have done to bring them together, to work together to build professional relationships," said Ryan Odinak, executive director of the Alliance.
"And to be able to have a pipeline for delivering important information to them, to build professional development and to do advocacy, and then to help them market what they are doing."
Odinak said that before the Alliance came along the arts organizations really wanted to come together to do collaborative marketing.
"FCBuzz.org was what we launched as soon as we got up and running," Odinak said.
"All the member organizations own that together. They populate everything on it. Then we spin off a lot of marketing pushes once it's on FCBuzz.org to get that information out."
FCBuzz.org is a cultural calendar offering ticket and event information for music, theater, dance, visual arts, history, lectures, literature, kids and family activities, classes, workshops, special events and more. Visitors to the site will also find profiles of regional artists, calls for art, auditions, job listings, volunteer opportunities and directories for cultural organizations, venues and creative services.
Odinak said that the Alliance also presents professional development workshops and offers a peer advisor network that matches advisors with organizations to work with them on specific issues they might have.
In addition, the Alliance runs an executive directors' network, which brings people in that position together quarterly.
"We move them around to go to each other's organizations or venues," Odinak said. "They get ideas and build relationships so they can pick up the phone and talk and have a conversation. And we learn about what's valuable to them.
"We just launched a great program for individual artists to develop their professional skills called Make Art Work."
"The Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County is a wonderful example of bringing disparate organizations with similar interests together to help drive more visitation for us all," said Chris Loynd, marketing director of the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk.
"The Alliance created FCBuzz to generate awareness in print, radio and internet media. It offers a wonderful forum to share information on visitation trends, organizational challenges and marketing ideas. Personally, I find it especially valuable to break out of my daily stream of work and share new ideas and perspectives with my colleagues. Sometimes fellow Alliance members help confirm trends I am seeing at The Maritime Aquarium. Other times I pick up great ideas or best practices I can apply."
Lloynd also said that the Alliance has the potential to generate tangible benefits with a dollar value exceeding members' dues contributions.
"By combining buying power of its collective members, the Alliance negotiates significantly reduced costs for certain media and services. For example, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk took advantage of an Alliance-brokered deal for Metro-North Railroad train car and platform advertising," Loynd said. "Our membership in the Cultural Alliance offered a price below even what our media buying service could negotiate. Those dollars saved allowed the Aquarium to increase its reach and frequency, attracting more visitors to support our non-profit organization."
The Alliance also represents Fairfield County at the state level.
"We go to Hartford, we serve on boards statewide," Odinak said. "We drill down on the issues, get an understanding of them and then we put that information out to members, whether it's a call to action, or just an informational e-mail letting them know what's going on. Organizations don't have time to do that."
For information, visit www.FCBuzz.org.