Monday, September 22, 2008

FDP Needs New leadership

Non-profit organizations often depend on the knowledge, dedication, and talents of volunteers, and such individual efforts are to be applauded. When such organizations contract to do a job and are paid with public funds, then taxpayers have an investment in their success and in expecting competent management of their money. Fayetteville Downtown Partners is one example, and it needs more responsible leadership.

Daniel Keeley, President of Fayetteville Downtown Partners, is said to be a competent landscaper. He is on the staff of Citiscapes and received an award from that magazine for being the "Best Landscape/Exterior Designer" in Fayetteville. He is a member of the Home Builders Association of Northwest Arkansas, and his projects include work for the Rupple Row development by Alexander, Merry-Ship & Alt Real Estate Group, Inc., and Nock Investments, LLC.

Keeley has been less successful as head of FDP, the group responsible for the Fayetteville Arts Festival. He said the funding goal for this year was $50,000, but he failed to submit an application for funding from the Advertising and Promotion Commission, which provided $35,000 the previous year. When the Fayetteville City Council passed a resolution in May asking that the A & P Commission renew the funding, Keeley spoke but did not support it. When the City Council unanimously approved $12,500 for FDP to manage the arts festival, Keeley was unable to explain the details of the budget and floundered until Board Members Sarah Lewis of the Fayetteville Council of Neighbrhoods and Dede Peters of the Fayetteville Arts Council testified and rescued him.

Under Keeley's leadership, even with the public funding, the 2008 festival fell far below that of previous years. We can do better and have. Downtown Partners estimated about 3,000 people attended events in 2008, compared to about 11,000 in 2005. Sales by participating artists this year were only about $30,000 compared with about $49,000 in 2006. Keeley said that FDP spent only about $11,000 in staging, promoting, and advertising this year's festival and kept about $20,000 to put aside for next year’s festival.

Fayetteville Downtown Partners is a good organization with some great board members, but they are in dire need of better leadership. Keeley needs to step aside as President and allow more competent leadership to begin now the process of preparing for the 2009 Fayetteville Arts Festival. It is far too an important part of the cultural scene in Fayetteville to suffer another year of floundering. Dede Peters, a true artist who understands the process and the value of public-private partnerships for support of the arts, would make an excellent replacement.

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