Performing Arts

UPAF Redesigns the Ride for the Arts

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For over 50 years, the United Performing Arts Fund has helped support 14 Member Groups, including First Stage, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Florentine Opera Company, and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, through community engagement. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to devastate performing arts venues in Milwaukee, UPAF reportedly needs community support now more than ever.

According to Katie Korek, UPAF public relations and digital media senior specialist, the UPAF Member Groups “are projecting an anticipated loss of over $22 million from March 2020 to May 2021.”

Some performing arts companies have managed to stay afloat, thanks to technology and generous donors. As most in-person fundraisers continue to be canceled for the foreseeable future, many companies have chosen to adopt a virtual format for such events. Others have opted to hold outdoor events with health and safety guidelines in place. “UPAF has been very lucky to have a dedicated donor base who has stood by us and the performing arts sector during these difficult times,” Korek says. “While many performing arts organizations around the country have been forced to go dark in 2021, our Member Groups have been able to continue entertaining and providing education and outreach programming, while positioning themselves for a strong return to traditional performances when it is safe to do so.”

In January, UPAF announced its re-imagined Ride for the Arts Series, safe, socially-distant outdoor cycling events for that continue the four decades-plus tradition of the Ride for the Arts fundraiser. The series, in which cyclists of all ages and abilities can participate, will be held over three weekends in summer: June 6 at Veterans Park, June 13 at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield and June 27 at Coal Dock Park in Port Washington.

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COVID-Safe Plan

Ride for the Arts Participants can walk or cycle to various Ride-to Reward stations located along bike trails, where they will receive prizes, including a gift-filled Miller Lite drawstring backpack and a UPAF Ride for the Arts T-shirt. To help participants plan the best bike route, the Ride Spot App offers directions and printable maps.

Drawing over 4,000 participants annually and raising over $10 million to benefit the local performing arts sector since its beginning more than four decades ago, the UPAF Ride for the Arts is one of Milwaukee’s most popular and enduring fundraisers, garnering support from local celebrities such as Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker.

“Redesigning the Ride challenged us to think differently on how to sustain the integrity of an event that has been a Milwaukee tradition for over forty years,” Korek says. “We knew we did not want to hold a fully virtual Ride again like we did in 2020, so we had to come up with a concept we could execute for our participants during these times of uncertainty. Our goal was twofold—create a rock-solid COVID-safe plan to allow early sponsorship solicitation with confidence, and provide a safe, fun and rewarding event for cyclists of all ages and abilities.”

In October, the UPAF Ride series was granted approval by the Milwaukee Health Department. Keeping the Ride series concept “Your Path, Your Place, Your Reward,” in mind, UPAF has put strict safety measures in place for the events. Rather than mass starting and finish lines, riders can choose their own paths at a number of Ride Series locations with bike trail access. Ride series registration will be limited, with three-hour time windows for each event to stagger the number of participants. To ensure a contactless experience, participants can register for the series on the day of the events on their mobile devices via QR codes, and UPAF volunteers will be on hand to monitor social distancing among participants and vendors.

“During this time when revenue is extremely limited, our Member Groups are depending on constant funding from UPAF more than ever,” Korek says.

Visit UPAF – Home and the UPAF Facebook page for Ride Series updates, to register for the event, and for information about Ride Series contests, giveaways and more.    

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