“White Bear: Center for the Arts”

Strategic Planning for WBCA’s Future

From 2019 Strategic Planning Co-Chairs Judy Benham and Alex Legeros

Strategic planning has been core to WBCA’s success and growth. Two good things come out of strategic planning. First, the Strategic Plan sets specific goals to achieve within a set timeframe and plans for measuring results. The Plan is a management tool that helps WBCA’s Board and staff reach long-term goals.

A second and equally important outcome of strategic planning may be less obvious: consensus. The process of strategic planning involves sharing big ideas, which often come from the heart. Everyone has dreams, and strategic planning brings to light how much these dreams are shared. Discussions bring people together around creating good in the world, and get to the core of why a nonprofit exists in the first place.

In 2019, WBCA brought together a group of Board and staff members to shepherd the strategic planning process for its next five years, with consultant Al Watts of inTEgro, inc. In January 2019, we outlined a 9-month process to nurture the Strategic Plan from conception to adoption. In phase 1, dubbed “Strategic Intelligence Gathering,” the working group conducted over 45 personal interviews and nine focus groups (with 84 participants), and Board member Katherine Curran devised a survey to reach each of WBCA’s 1350 household members.

In June, Al presented a 15-page report on these preliminary findings. Over the next four months, the Board included 60-90 minutes at every Board meeting for a deep dive into key questions and strategies, as well as talk-back meetings with WBCA’s staff. One of the most difficult questions to answer was WBCA’s “unique value proposition,” or in other words, the recipe for WBCA’s secret sauce. This answer was integral to shaping WBCA’s Mission, updating our Core Values, and charting “Vision 2025.”

The final Strategic Plan adopted in October 2019 is a reflection of the needs, aspirations, and values we heard from the WBCA community. This is a welcoming art center, one that does not prize one medium over another, or prioritize the skill level of its students. “Creativity is at the heart of what we do,” and by emphasizing opportunities to learn and grow, the Center ignites our minds, opens us to new ideas and cultures, and connects us with people in our community.

  1. Imbed the White Bear Center for the Arts further in the community through community arts programs, increasing awareness of the Center and new or enhanced relationships with community segments and organizations.
  2. Increase engagement of under-represented community segments, including next generation artists and supporters and those who can broaden the diversity of Center arts experiences.
  3. Be a proactive participant that facilitates collaborative development of the White Bear Arts District, resulting in facilities, design and experiences that make the District and White Bear Center for the Arts a regional destination.
  4. Generate sufficient financial resources to fund WBCA’s strategic goals and operations, and to assure the Center’s financial sustainability well into the future.
  5. Assure a Board and staff infrastructure that is aligned with the Center’s vision, strategic goals and operating requirements.

Throughout the process, we found three themes in the dreams for WBCA’s future. First was the call to increase engagement of under-represented people, including among culturally diverse students, instructors, and arts experiences, and also for youth and emerging artists – and reflect that diversity in WBCA’s staff and Board. This arena is where the arts can have the greatest impact in shaping people’s lives, benefitting the future of our community.

WBCA is also called upon to serve a regional audience as a premier destination for celebrating the arts. Recent studies show growing cities like White Bear Lake will continue to age, while others like Hugo will see an influx of families with young children. You may have noticed however, perhaps at an exhibition’s opening reception, that WBCA is already past the capacity of its parking lot.

The last call we heard time and again was not to lose the culture that has made WBCA such a welcoming place. As we expand programs, add staff, and welcome more people, growth cannot trade away the hospitality, respect, and quality found at the Center.

These deep and meaningful discussions took time. Ultimately, not only did the Board adopt a new Strategic plan, we also reached a consensus about the most integral parts of WBCA’s mission and special role in the community. As Co-Chairs, we are thankful that everyone continued to participate, support, and dig into the process, which helped us form a clear vision for the future of this Center for the Arts.

Little did we know when we started, but as we head into 2020 and beyond, the vision, values, and mission articulated by the Strategic Plan will be driving full steam ahead as part of an expansion to WBCA’s building, programs, and grounds. Made possible by the energy and generosity of our community, WBCA will inaugurate a major expansion to its campus in spring 2021.

Peter Kramer, the architectural visionary for WBCA’s building opened in 2013, is working with WBCA and New Studio Architects to finalize the design of the new building and maximize the potential of the grounds. You can expect to learn more about this in our Summer catalog.

If this sounds exciting to you, it should! Now is the time to bring big dreams to life. We continue to seek and welcome financial support to fully embrace this opportunity to support White Bear Lake’s Arts District. From our beating hearts, thank you to every single person embracing this Center for the Arts: You are an inspiration for the next 50 years!

The 2020-2025 Strategic Plan is available here.

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