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7 Questions – Charles Phaneuf (Joe’s Movement Emporium)

Good morning! We’re pleased to introduce … Charles Phaneuf, managing director of Joe’s Movement Emporium/World Arts Focus in Mount Rainier. Open 7 days a week and 12 hours a day, Joe’s is home to 25 regional artists and performance groups, offers 3-4 hours of after-school programs daily, and hosts an intensive summer arts camp for low and moderate-income families. Learn even more right here …

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

Working on creative ways to build our audience and generate revenue. In the past, Joe’s has been funded largely by foundation and government partners but resources are not what they used to be. We have to grow individual giving and devise creative ways to partner with businesses beyond traditional sponsorships. In the last few months, we did a percentage sale at a restaurant (Hank’s Tavern in Hyattsville) that was also a preview event for shows in our season, so it brought artistic content out to the community and had an audience development goal. We’re working with Hank’s, our local framing shop (Fountain Framing) and hopefully some other businesses to create offers for Deals for Deeds, which we won two weeks ago. We hope that these efforts and others will help build a deeper relationship with our partners and audiences while also funding programs so that we don’t have to cut services and can continue to grow.

2. What else are you up to?

Besides watching college basketball (go Heels!), I’ve been helping with publicity for a band I play with, the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra. It’s an amazing group of seventeen musicians and there’s nothing else like it that I’ve seen. We play every Monday night in a jazz club that’s been around since the 20′s. We’re starting to play outside a little more, including the NEA’s Poetry Out Loud finals, and we’re hoping to begin more youth education through clinics and workshops with young people, which has been a lot of fun so far.

3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?

In college, I worked with an agent named Robert Rund to bring the Brazilian singer Luciana Souza to the student union for a concert. At the time, I was applying for a lot of jobs in the arts and thought that I would move to New York or Chicago since that’s where I believed that most of the exciting work and organizations were located. He encouraged me to think more broadly — that great work will always happen in the cultural hotspots but it takes real leadership and vision to produce exciting high-quality arts programming in other places. This work is more important to communities that don’t have the same cultural resources.

4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?

Ben Cameron, who’s now in charge of the Doris Duke Foundation, and formerly ran the Theatre Communications Group, is the most inspiring leader in the arts that I’ve had the opportunity to listen to and meet. He’s very passionate while at the same time being clear about how essential the arts are, and realistic about what resources are needed to support a vibrant arts community.

5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?

I think it’s getting people to participate in the arts for the first time, or to rediscover artistic experiences. Whether it’s taking a class, enrolling your child in a program, or showing up to see a concert — once people do it and realize how much it can improve their lives and expand their world view, they can get hooked.

6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?

Be willing to learn and work hard. One of the greatest learning opportunities I’ve had is to participate in producing the Capital Fringe Festival, and that happened because I went to a community meeting and asked what I could do to help. Julianne Brienza, the co-founder and Executive Director, took me up on it, and I’m still involved with the organization seven years later. I remember that the first thing we did together was set up the chart of accounts in her living room, and the festival’s grown and grown, selling over 35,000 tickets this last year.

7. What’s next?

Right now, it about finishing the business plan that we’ve been working on for the last year and executing it as best we can. I think that good things are in store for Prince George’s County, there is a lot of excitement and positive signs that our new County Executive, Rushern Baker, is going to lead us to a bright future. For me personally, it’s about figuring out how I need to build my skills and support the growth of our team — both the growing board and the excellent staff that we have here.

EXTRA: If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?

George Wein, Alan Lomax and Ted Leonsis. Wein is one of the smartest and innovative producers of all-time (Newport Jazz & Folk Festivals, New Orleans JazzFest) and I would want to pick his brain. Lomax did groundbreaking work to preserve music and cultural traditions, including discovering Leadbelly. And Leonsis is a very savvy businessman and I think that his exploration of happiness and philanthropic work is praiseworthy.

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