As a family, we don’t just appreciate the performing arts. We live them.
Instrumental music. Dance. Theater.
This spring, we’re struggling along with virtual piano lessons, uploading cell phone videos to our teacher and then waiting for return cell phone comments.
Dance classes and an annual recital are stopped.
School band concerts aren’t happening. We’re anxiously awaiting word on whether a summer band camp on a college campus is going to proceed.
Local community theater – it was to be a two-musical summer – is not happening right now.
And we’ve watched area performing arts groups like the Madison Ballet, that my daughter had the privilege to perform with just a few months ago, indefinitely shut their doors. That Madison’s Overture Center is sitting empty, feels brutal.
Visual artists like potters and painters are in a brutal holding pattern, too.
Events like the Clay Collective’s annual Spring Pottery Tour in the Cambridge area have been canceled. Galleries are shut. We don’t know yet if summer art fairs are going to happen.
The arts don’t just inspire and entertain us, they drive our local and state economies. Every day that goes by, we’re losing more of the economic impact they generate.
In 2018, the Wisconsin Arts Board and Americans for the Arts conducted a comprehensive economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry. The study was commissioned by the Wisconsin Arts Board as part of its legislative mandate to study the arts in Wisconsin.
The study showed that in Wisconsin, local nonprofit arts organizations generated $657 million in economic activity annually in 2016 and 2017. That resulted in nearly $75 million in local and state tax revenues, 26,695 in full-time equivalent jobs and $555 million in resident income.
That’s a lot of money.
So how can we help now, from home?
Arts groups like theater and dance companies are typically non-profits, so donations to them are tax-deductible. If you have the means, consider making a donation. If they’ve had to cancel performances, it will help make up for lost ticket revenue.
Then, search out your favorite local and regional visual artists. Find their websites or phone numbers or message them on social media. Buy a pot or a painting. Buy another. Buy three.
Visual artists are still creating in their studios and would love to sell you a piece of the work they’ve done in isolation.
Support of the arts now is as important as supporting local restaurants by ordering carry out fish fry — every single Friday — until this is over.
Our family is looking forward to when we can once again sing, act, dance, play and create in-person with others. We miss our arts friends that we collaborate with and who bring us, in normal times, daily joy.
I hope the arts groups we’re affiliated with do more than just pop back up later this year. I hope our favorite visual artists do more than just pop back up. I hope they roar back stronger than ever, because during the coronavirus shutdown they were supported by a lot of people who recognize their immense value.