An Interview with Al Priem

Lifetime Board Member Al Priem reflects on the growth of Act One

A passionate Act One ambassador, Al was a member of the Board of Directors since the beginning (2011), served as Treasurer (2011-2015) and Chair (2015-2016) and was honored as the first Lifetime Board Member of Act One (2017). In an October interview, Al shared his reflections on the record demand for field trips, the growth of the organization and the inspiration behind his leadership.

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What do you find most meaningful about your involvement with Act One?
“I find it immensely rewarding to see the look on the faces of the children at the arts venues. Their eyes are as big as silver dollars! To think that for many, it’s their first time experiencing the arts. Seeing the reaction of the children is priceless.” 

What are your thoughts on the increased numbers of school partners, arts partners, field trips and total students in our field trip program?
“The demand we see speaks to the real need in our community for the arts being intertwined with educational programs. There’s a buzz among educators about Act One and how successful and efficient our field trips are in exposing children to the arts. There’s a realization that art enhances education, and Act One plays a significant part in that. The challenge for the organization is to raise the necessary funds to keep up with the incredible demand. We’re inviting more corporate sponsors to get involved and work in harmony with individual donors in support of our growth.”

For you, what’s the most exciting aspect of what Act One does?
“It’s the two-pronged approach: The field trip program brings children to arts venues and the Culture Pass program brings the family and adult audience. The Culture Pass appeals not only to children and families but adults in general. Exposing adults to the arts, adults who couldn’t afford a ticket and otherwise couldn’t attend, is important too.” 

You held leadership positions of Board Chair and Treasurer during Act One’s critical, foundational years. Of all the organization’s developments, what are you most proud of?
“Quite frankly, I’m most proud of the growth of the organization. So much of that growth is attributable to our executive director [Geri Wright] and the staff she’s assembled. They are terrific! We also focused on the development of a first-class Board – the engine for success.” 

How have you seen the organization change and grow?
“I’ve seen growth in our product in a very short time. We’ve increased our field trip participants from 6,000 in our first year to more than 42,000 today. We’ve enhanced the Culture Pass program through the growth of our library partners to 60 today. These numbers speak volumes.” 

Where do you see us heading? What do we have the potential to accomplish?
“We have the potential to make a statewide impact with Act One’s platform, but I also think this concept could work nationally.” 

What would you say to our donors about the impact they are making and the work that lies ahead?
“We are dearly indebted to our donors over the past six years. Over time, they’ve assisted in changing a lot of children’s lives – over 130,000 so far. Our work today is to make sure that contributions continue to sustain our programs and grow to support the increasing demand. It’s extremely urgent that we all contribute to Act One this giving season, to meet the demand from the educational arts community and place as many students as possible in field trips this year.” 

How would you advise people who are thinking about funding our mission? Why should they start donating to Act One?
“I would advise people to go on our website and read the testimonials from students and teachers. Their experiences are very compelling. From reading the website, they’ll get a combined sense of how the arts interplay with education. As the quantity of students that we serve increases, the task becomes even greater for us to deliver the quality of product and assistance to the education world that our field trips provide. We need the help of new donors to keep doing this good work.” 

The Act One Board of Directors recently elected you as the first Lifetime Board Member. How will you approach the role?
“I plan to stay active and engaged. I will continue to attend the Board’s meetings and retreats, including an upcoming strategic planning session. I’ll assist in fundraising and working on expanding our funding sources.”

What motivates your leadership service with Act One?
“My background in the arts is limited. In my hierarchy, my passion is education. I’m convinced that you can’t separate the arts and education. You need both for a well-rounded education. In life, you do much better when you have had both. Even though I was not exposed to the arts when I was young, it’s been fun seeing children have that experience. I’m fired up about the work of Act One!”

Al and his wife, Margaret, live in Minnetonka, Minnesota and Phoenix, Arizona. They have two children, Ryan and Stephanie (married to Elliot), and five grandchildren. Al is CFO of Clim-a-tech. He enjoys playing golf and reading non-fiction literature.