40 North funding

Kelly White, executive director of 40 North, is shown with some promotional materials for the 2015 Boneyard Arts Festival at her desk in Champaign.

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CHAMPAIGN — The local nonprofit that puts on Friday Night Live and the Boneyard Arts Festival will soon double its number of paid staffers — to two.

After hearing from dozens of local artists, bands, supporters and 40 North’s lone paid employee herself this week, the Champaign City Council signed off on a one-time, $20,000 increase in funding, with the promise to revisit the issue during its goal-setting session in October.

It wasn’t everything 40 North Executive Director Kelly White asked for — she had proposed a $20,000 increase, to $50,000, for each of the next three years — but she’ll take it over the burnout that seemed inevitable if she remained the lone person tasked with booking the talent, answering the phones and everything else.

“I am personally, physically and emotionally at capacity,” White told council members. “I’m basically working off passion at this point, but I know it’s not sustainable.”

White said she plans to use the new money to hire a person to help handle all of the programming 40 North puts on — from downtown Champaign’s Friday night summer series to the ACE Awards.

“As a small nonprofit with one paid staff member, you wear every hat,” she said. “You’re hauling extension cords and making presentations and also curating exhibitions. You take on all different roles, but our programming has grown so much.”

White said the bump in funding will also help free her up to search for more of it, including an effort to find more sponsors.

Her pitch to council members included a case for arts being an economic driver for the city.

“If you bring vibrancy and a better quality of life,” she said, “people will want to move here, live here and visit here.”

White had help in her bid to convince council members of that. Among those weighing in: Robbie Mathisen and Nathan Monroe, owners of Pour Brothers Craft Taproom, who in a letter to the council noted that three of their best-selling Fridays coincided with FNL events.

“That’s a testament to the huge economic impact that (Friday Night Live) has had,” White said. “In the long run, it’s bringing people into the area, but in the short term, it’s keeping people downtown longer to park, eat dinner and have drinks.

“I don’t think people really understand how powerful an economic tool the arts can be.”


Aldo Toledo is a reporter covering local government at The News-Gazette. His email is atoledo@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@aldot29).