1. What do you most appreciate about In Progress? What strengths, achievements and values make In Progress an attractive investment?: Loved their intersection of personal development, arts and empowerment and voice. That intersection with young women of color is an incredibly powerful and important combination.
The thing that is a distinguishing characteristic: Kris brings a level of artistry and ambition and history that elevates the work. The kids aren’t just doing a craft project. These kids use art as a means – a serious means – to explore who they are in the world in a profound way.
The quality is important. Kids see that immediately. This has real authenticity. Focus on these particular kids. They do it. You see what is happening to the kids. Real deal impact. The kids are fundamentally different in the world because of what they’ve done at In Progress. There are ways to measure it. The trajectory is real. You don’t want to overly encumber it with a lot of form-filling-out. Capture that in a way that is organic to the way they work. Interviews and observations about the kids. Body language, how they speak, etc. Do this a year or two down the line. The impact has always been visceral and obvious to me when I’ve spent time with Kris and the kids.
2. What makes In Progress unique in your eyes? How does In Progress stand out from other arts or youth development programs from your perspective?: Its niche is an intersection of several things; complicated, and that can make it hard to pin down for funding. It doesn’t look like anything else. It can look like it misses every bucket, or like it hits all of them.
3. As you look into the next few years, what funding and community trends might have an impact on In Progress?:Demographic trends – there will be more and more kids who could benefit from what she does. The market is growing. What is their capacity to handle the growth of the community? I know Kris is grooming new leaders. How is that going?
Question in my mind (going way, way back). She was a program of Film in the Cities. Then she moved around when they closed. What is the trade-off between being a program and being independent? Would they have better capacity as a program of an organization with more infrastructure?
Arts funding is always a mixed bag. The Legacy funds were a boost during the recession. Funding has flattened out recently. Their niche is not just arts – which can be a plus and a challenge. But they are also not just a neighborhood program. (Are they a little like Juxtaposition? In Progress is multi geography, multi-discipline, etc. Be smart about how to market each segment. Geographic base in north end is good. (Neal had not known about the storefront before our conversation.)
4. What do you hope to see In Progress do more of in the future?: More and bigger! Meet the demand!
I don’t know how visible they are now. But it would be great to see them do some larger public project. (Think Wing and the Lake St. corridor photographs.)
5. What other advice do you have for In Progress about staying vital into the future?: Challenges are what they have always been. Been constant to keep vital.
Important to find a way to make it more sustainable. When Kris is gone, how will this continue? Is there a size they try to build to so that administration is sustainable?
I was and remain a big fan. Really valuable work in a real, authentic, meaningful impactful way.
Kris is an incredible leader. There is something about how Kris engages with the young women that makes them (the young women) walk differently in the world.