Mill Street Loft and Spark Media Project

“The more we work towards this merger, the more complementary these two organizations are. We are going to bring Spark’s innovative assets to Mill Street Loft’s incredible programs and hope we blow people’s minds.” – Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt, Executive Director, Mill Street Loft and Spark Media Project

Mill Street Loft and Spark Media Project are two long-standing, arts-focused nonprofits that strategically restructured in 2016. Through a vast array of media and fine-arts programming, they share a common goal of changing lives through the arts.

“Merging Spark Media Project and Mill Street Loft will help us consolidate and strengthen our back-end administrative capacity as well as expand our breadth of programming and our impact on this community,” says Fenichel-Hewitt, who will be executive director for the newly merged organization. “Spark provides a video element and workforce development that previously did not exist at Mill Street Loft; and Mill Street Loft provides advanced visual arts training and pre-college assistance that Spark hadn’t previously offered.” Both organizations serve area youth, helping them acquire critical skills needed to advance in secondary education or the workforce.

In the case of Mill Street Loft, founder and retired executive director Carole Wolf had engaged in an executive transition plan with the help of a Dyson Foundation Management Assistance Program grant. The interest was in strengthening the organization with a strong eye toward the future. The Foundation also supported the restructuring process.

Fenichel-Hewitt points to several examples of how expanded programming will benefit the Mid-Hudson Valley. Mobile Media Lab is a Spark initiative that provides pop-up programming in the digital media arts to area libraries. This will now include a visual arts component, giving libraries more choice and broader programming to offer their constituents. A second example is Mill Street Loft’s Portfolio Day, an event that attracts over 40 national colleges and students from all over the region. Adding a media arts portfolio to this program greatly expands opportunities for students from the region looking to get an advanced degree.

The Dyson Foundation has had long-term relationships with both Dutchess County-based organizations due to their programs for underserved youth in Poughkeepsie, and sees this merger as a great opportunity for two strong, respected, and complementary entities to make the most of their strengths. In 2016, grants to Mill Street Loft and Spark Media Project included support for youth programs and general operating support, respectively. These grants fall within the Strengthening Nonprofits, Health & Safety Net, and Enhancing Education funding themes.