Ragtag Cinema will conclude the first season of its Show Me Series on June 30 with a screening of “Kiki.”
Presented in tandem with The Center Project, which bills itself as “Mid-Missouri’s LGBTQ Community Center,” the free event — which includes a post-film conversation — will wrap a successful year-long run of eager collaboration, eye-opening cinema and thoughtful dialogue.
Starting in May 2021 with a True/False Film Fest screening of eventual Oscar winner “Summer of Soul,” the Show Me Series finds Ragtag pairing with local organizations to host a film and dialogue that speaks to the issues they care about. Series partners are The Asian Affairs Center at the University of Missouri, Boone County Community Against Violence, Four Directions at MU, ROCK The Community and The Center Project.
One key idea drives the series: Art can crack open tough conversations in ways other community events just can’t.
“We’re actually all immersed in this communal experience of watching a film together, and that just takes a lot of work out of opening that conversation,” Ragtag Film Society’s Stacie Pottinger told the Tribune last year. RFS comprises the yearly True/False festival and Ragtag, Columbia’s indie moviehouse.
These conversations are happening, in part, thanks to A Community Thrives, an initiative from the Gannett Foundation, which provides a crowdfunding platform for community organizations as well as the opportunity to receive larger grants. Gannett is the parent company of the Columbia Daily Tribune, Springfield News-Leader and USA Today, among about 200 other newspapers.
Last year, in addition to the generosity of its donors, Ragtag received a $12,500 grant from A Community Thrives to be used for the Show Me Series.
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How A Community Thrives benefited Ragtag
The Show Me Series name “is a nod to our long-established proclivity as Missourians to approach new things with a hint of skepticism (until we see it for ourselves, of course),” Ragtag’s website notes.
“As well, a challenge to show our community all the possibilities shared experiences with film can hold — and the potential to serve as a catalyst for conversations that can move our collective pendulum closer to equity, inclusion and unity.”
After last year’s success, Ragtag will apply for A Community Thrives again, hoping to raise funds for a future season of the series, RFS development and grants manager Patricia Weisenfelder said.
In mounting the campaign, Weisenfelder found the process similar to CoMo Gives, an annual fundraising effort for mid-Missouri nonprofits—only with a broader reach.
Like CoMo Gives, A Community Thrives includes chances for organizations to win challenge bonuses; the friendly competition brings fun to the process, and adds a sense of timeliness and urgency for donors, Weisenfelder said.
“It almost doubles the impact of your donors. They have a reason to give because, if they give, we could get more,” she said.
The process widened Ragtag’s reach; approximately one-third of donors to last year’s campaign were new, Pottinger told the Tribune at the time.
The campaign came at a time when Weisenfelder increasingly seeks out new grantors. Recurring funding sources such as Missouri Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts continue to benefit organizations like Ragtag, but grants are becoming more competitive, she said.
When examining new funding sources, Weisenfelder looks for aligning values; A Community Thrives’ interest in media literacy and community-building suits Ragtag’s mission.
Every time she writes a grant, Weisenfelder gets to tell a different side of Ragtag’s story, a task she finds “revitalizing.” With the Show Me Series, she gets to tell the story of like-minded partners pooling what they have in common.
“We are established enough as an organization that we are able to partner with other nonprofits that may not have the visibility in the community, and give them that space and share the resources they offer with our audience,” she said.
Each event feels like a “true partnership” between nonprofit neighbors, RFS co-custodian Arin Liberman wrote in an email.
“There is great care in collaboratively curating both the film and the conversation to get at something meaningful within that night’s focus,” she said.
And the series opens Ragtag’s doors wider. All series screenings are free and focus on topics of interest to a large swath of Columbia’s population.
“It takes away the barriers for individuals who may not otherwise be able to come and see a film, or go to a music showcase,” she said. “It increases the diversity of our audience.”
Recent series titles include “Chilsu and Mansu,” presented in April, and May’s screening of “Queen and Slim.” Each screening “is really its own unique opportunity for engagement — they’re really all quite different from each other,” Liberman said.
Whatever the focus or audience, “Show Me conversations have, per our mission, elicited joy, wonder, and perhaps most especially, introspection,” she added.
Director Sara Jordenö’s “Kiki” tells the story of dance battles in New York City communities. The film peers into a scene “where tough competitions act as a gateway into the daily lives of LGBTQ youth of color,” Ragtag’s website notes. The 2016 film is unrated.
Filmgoers can learn more at https://ragtagcinema.org/film-series/show-me-1/.
How your organization can apply for A Community Thrives
Missouri nonprofits working on projects aimed at building their communities are invited to apply to the 2022 A Community Thrives program, which is a $2 million initiative of the Gannett Foundation. A Community Thrives is accepting applications through June 30 for this year’s program.
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The program supports nonprofits, schools and municipal organizations focused on community-building. Special consideration will be given to organizations that work to build up historically under-resourced and underserved groups.
Organizations raise money by crowdfunding, then will be eligible for 16 project grants: three $100,000 grants, seven $50,000 grants and six $25,000 grants, according to the website for A Community Thrives. There are also operating grants for eligible entrants with community operations in Gannett’s markets, incentive grants for groups that raise the most funds and bonus challenge grants for those who wish to compete.
Organizations can apply at https://acommunitythrives.mightycause.com/giving-events/act22/home. The fundraising phase of the program will take place from July 18 through Aug. 12, and recipients will be announced Oct. 5.
Aarik Danielsen is the features and culture editor for the Tribune. Contact him at email@example.com or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.