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New Nonprofit Supports Chicago Artists

Foundation of Artists Mentored in Entertainment, known by the acronym FAME, is a newly established Chicago nonprofit founded to help support talented individuals and organizations in arts and entertainment industry who cannot afford to develop their talent on their own.

Lily Liu, founder of Lily’s Talent Agency, started the organization to fill what she says is an unmet need in the Chicago arts and entertainment scene. As a recent New York Times article stated, “When times are tough, the arts suffer more than most. Pinched pocketbooks — both corporate and individual — force institutions to give up ambitious plans to focus on simply staying afloat.”

But there is proof that a good communications and marketing outreach plan can trump even a poor economic climate. Success is attainable for nonprofits when they spend time and resources building genuine relationships with stakeholders and develop a well-researched, targeted communications plan.

This is where FAME comes in. FAME will act as a middleman utilizing Liu’s knowledge of the Chicago talent and entertainment industries and her personal connections to other industry professionals. Liu’s experience at her talent agency is what inspired her to start FAME.

“I remember one time in the 90s a family drove in from the South Side of Chicago to attend LTA’s open call,” Liu said, referring to Lily’s Talent Agency. “The girl came into the office looking out of place in a hand-me-down formal dress about two sizes too big. When she was finished reading her lines the room was silent. The staff knew this bubbly 8-year-old was a star. But they also knew her family did not have the finances to provide an appropriate wardrobe and professional marketing materials; both vital for success. There was so much potential and raw talent. I offered her family a loan that could be paid back with job placement. They were too proud to accept. She never got the chance to pursue her talents. I knew I needed another way to help,” Liu said.

The first FAME beneficiary will be The Metropolis School of the Performing Arts, a non-profit performing arts school in Arlington Heights, Ill. The school’s mission is to provide quality entertainment and arts education to the community.

Metropolis has seen an increase in donations over the past five years, largely due to the investment the organization had made to revamp their program since 2006.

“Successful development is largely predicted on building relationships and follow up, which occur more naturally when a staff of people is devoted to that effort,” said Joe Villinski, director of development at Metropolis.

Although Villinski said that a few individual donations have decreased due to economic climate, overall they have seen an increase in the number of donors. They also focus on attracting donors who can initially make larger gifts. An area that Metropolis would like to improve is corporate donors, Villinski said, as corporate support for Metropolis has been limited. Another challenge is accessing grant money within the city of Chicago because they are a suburban-based school.

Metropolis continues to increase donations by reaching out to other organizations, like FAME, to find new donors and build relationships with other professionals seeking the same goals.

Along with helping artists pursue their dreams, there is also an argument that non-profit arts and culture organizations provide a valuable economic boost to their community by inviting additional visitors to the community where they spend money on other related businesses.

Metropolis serves 2,500 students and last year had 76,000 patrons, who spent $1.6 million in downtown Arlington.
FAME is providing Metropolis with a $20,000 donation, which the organization will use to provide scholarships to students who can’t afford tuition.

Parents say they are grateful for the scholarship funding, without which they could not afford to pay for their children’s arts education.

“I believe Tristan and Noelle’s experience at Metropolis has contributed to their musical appreciation, personal confidence and academic success,” said Sahrie Wenceslao, a mother of two Metropolis students who receive financial assistance.

The first fundraising event for FAME will be held March 8. Rockit Bar and Grill donated the second floor of the restaurant for the event and will also be supplying guests with appetizers, house wine and non-alcoholic drinks. Guests can watch performances by The Metropolis School of the Performing Arts and the winner of the FAME-hosted Chicago Talent Search.


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