Developing the creative economy

Creatives are often pushed out of communities once the area becomes exciting to developers. The only way to counter that is to buy, develop, and sustain facilities, but foundations don’t do that. We decided to incubate and launch BARCO, a nonprofit arts real estate development corporation. For every dollar the Deutsch Foundation puts in, BARCO raises or secures two or three, dedicated to developing the creative economy. The Deutsch Foundation sees Baltimore’s cultural sector as a creative ecosystem where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Collaboration, influence, and access allow people to come together and grow together, whether through community spaces, creative hubs, art education, public art, or more. The overall goal in funding smaller organizations and projects is to attract and retain emerging talent, for artists and activists to have jobs, and for organizations to grow and hire staff. The longer term impact is to revitalize Baltimore as a thriving, healthy, and growing creative community.

 Left to right: David Deutsch, Jane Brown, Mac Maclure, Neil Didriksen

Left to right: David Deutsch, Jane Brown, Mac Maclure, Neil Didriksen

Investing early and taking a hands-on approach

The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation operates differently than many other philanthropic organizations. Most of our grants go for general operating support and capacity building. It’s hardest for organizations to raise money to keep the lights on as opposed to an exciting special project. We try to place as few barriers as possible in front of grantees. Additionally, many foundations will not fund newer organizations until they have several years of financials. In this context, the Deutsch Foundation decided to essentially become “Angel Investors,” and create greater access to early stage funding, technical assistance, networking opportunities, and to intellectual, financial, and collaborative resources. Our key decision-makers are deeply involved in Baltimore’s communities. We want to be able to rapidly respond when a need is dire. Since we are not limited by an overly bureaucratic process, we can be nimble, flexible, and responsive. The Deutsch Foundation stays closely engaged with the people we support, from the earliest stages to the point when they attract funding from other sources. We see great value, come in early, take the risk, and help innovators to be successful. We are determined to “go to where the silence is.”