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The Ozarks Performing Arts League: A Collaborative Gem In The Ozarks
Namesake of OPAL, The Ozarks Performing Arts League

Next on KSMU, your public radio station, another Conversation On Collaboration from our ongoing series Making a Difference, supported by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

Today, the collaboration between area arts organizations and the CFO known as OPAL, the Ozarks Performing Arts League, "OPAL is a voluntary coalition of arts organizations coming together to seek support in extraordinary times," says Christopher Koch, Executive Director and Music Director of the Springfield Regional Opera. The SRO, along with Springfield Little Theater and the Springfield Ballet. Are the current members of the Ozarks Performing Arts League.

Credit Submitted by OPAL
Springfield Regional Opera, Springfield Little Theater, and Springfield Ballet, Are Members Of OPAL, The Ozarks Performing Arts League

"The primary inspiration behind this organization is COVID-19," says Christopher Koch, "So it's no secret that the virus is wreaking havoc on many economies across the world. But it's really quite deadly to the arts economy, simply because of what we do requires lots of people gathered together. And if you can't have lots of people gathered together, we can't do business. It's a very, very serious problem. In fact, it may be the most serious issue that the arts have faced in my lifetime." said Koch.

Strong enough feelings, it seems, for Christopher Koch to initiate a call to action for collaboration with other performing arts organizations.

Andrew Parker, Artistic Director at Springfield Ballet, gives credit to Koch for creating OPAL "It really was the brainchild of Christopher at the Springfield Regional Opera, who I think came up with the original idea to collaborate,"says Parker. "We debated it in different names and OPAL just seemed like the right fit because it is the jewel, and The Ozarks Performing Arts League, fit just right." he said.

Simply put, says Andrew Parker, collaboration is key to the success of organizations like OPAL.

"Collaboration is so key because you can do so much more than you can on your own," he says. "There's different ideas that you can share; different ways to approach funders, which is what OPAL is about. So there's just so many different ways to collaborate that are key to help support each other. You know, when you're alone, you kind of you're doing your own thing. But when you collaborate, you really combine your efforts and energies and ideas." says Parker.

Credit Andrew Parker / Springfield Ballet
Springfield Ballet
Andrew Parker, Artistic Director of Springfield Ballet

OPAL as an entity is only a month or so along. And according to Andrew Parker, an established fund with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks will help support future fundraising platforms.

"We've been talking about some different donors to approach. We've been putting together sort of a list of potential funders that may be interested in helping us and supporting us." said Parker.

"You know, it's it's really interesting because right now everybody is having to pivot, and doing things differently," says Beth Doman, Executive Director of Springfield Little Theater.

"It started out with, oh, perhaps we can all get together all the arts and do a concert. And then it kind of morphed into working together to help raise awareness and to approach companies and foundations of stuff that don't normally give to the arts," says Beth Doman. "And you know, what's really fun is it's exciting to work with other arts organizations that are really doing this and being collaborative. I'm anxious to get out there and actually start talking to people about what we're trying to do here and and raise awareness about the arts." said Beth Doman.

Credit Beth Doman / Springfield Little Theater
Springfield Little Theater
Beth Doman, Executive Director of Springfield Little Theater

"You know, the fact that we have we have the opera, we have the ballet, we have the theater, we have the symphony: For a city this size,that's not normal. That's pretty crazy. And so that does help people," said Doman.

"We have such a vibrant art scene," Doman says, "Not just in performing arts, but visual arts, in this town. But that's a that's a big aspect to people coming in to be able to have a wonderful museum, and so people I think sometimes don't really look at the big picture of that. And that's something that we're trying to show people and talk to people about, and hopefully have them help support that, because the arts are such a vibrant part of Springfield. You know, it brings in over, what, 26 million dollars a year to this area. So that's a lot, that's a lot of hoo hoo." she says.

"But more importantly, a lot of the leading businesses in Springfield rely on quality of life in Springfield to recruit new talent," says Christopher Koch.

"So if Springfield starts to lose all of the things about itself that make it a special place to be, then it's not just going to be the arts organizations that are suffering. It's going to be the entire sort of cultural fabric of what makes our community what it is." says Koch.

Christopher Koch says the Springfield Regional Opera, Springfield Ballet, and Springfield Little Theater, all share a common denominator with their membership in OPAL.

Credit Christopher Koch / Springfield Regional Opera
Springfield Regional Opera
Christopher Koch, Executive Director and Music Director of Springfield Regional Opera

"We all present to sort of what we might call the dramatic," says Koch. "So there is a musical component, and then there is a human component, whether it's acting or dancing. That brings our art forms to our public. We're also all three of us involved in education on different levels of young and professional. And, our hope is that the more public our efforts become, it will just raise the profile and raise attention to what we're doing." he said .

Springfield Regional Opera, Springfield Ballet and the Springfield Little Theatre are all, 501c3 Not-For-Profit organizations. And that, of course, allows the Ozarks Performing Arts League to receive CFO support. And OPAL's account at the foundation is categorized as a "Designated Fund". Each quarter, the balance will distribute equally to each organization.

Again, Christopher Koch: "None of the individual organizations will have direct ownership of the monies that come in in support of OPAL," he said. "In other words, the financial arrangements will be entirely handled by the Community Foundation. And we are also, of course, in communication with Springfield Regional Arts Council just to ensure that we are really doing all we can to to consider all of the elements of the arts and the nature of how we're all dealing with COVID. Our hoped for result is if we can make a little bit of a difference for the arts and if we can become maybe a test case of what might be possible when people do collaborate, then we will feel very satisfied with our work together." said Koch.

For more information,  Archived editions of the Making a Difference Series are at    I'm Mike Smith.

Mike Smith's career at KSMU began in 1980 as a student announcer when the former Navy Submariner attended (then) SMSU with help from the GI Bill. In 1982 Smith became a full time member of the KSMU family as "Chief Announcer", responsible for the acquisition, training and scheduling of the student announcing staff. It was also in 1982 when Smith first produced "Seldom Heard Music" a broadcast of Bluegrass which is still heard on KSMU and every Saturday night at 7CT.
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