Arts organizations, many of which are financially vulnerable even in the best of times, find themselves on life support as coronavirus spreads around the globe. Museums, theaters, concert halls and opera stages of all sizes have closed. Performers and behind-the-scenes employees are being furloughed or laid off.
How can you help? The Times’ arts team has brainstormed 22 ways you can help sustain art and those who produce it. As many fear prolonged damage to the arts infrastructure as the country heads into economic recession, lasting closures have profound consequences and certain organizations even cease to exist.
Art can sustains humanity in its darkest hours. Here are possible ways to add a little light. Email your suggestions to us at email@example.com.
1. Purchase a membership: From big art museums to small artist-run organizations, membership is one crucial way to help stabilize operating budgets. Membership also strengthens community.
2. Take an online dance class: Many unemployed professional dancers have begun offering classes online. Some classes are free, but some include a link to Venmo or Zelle if you’d like to donate.
3. Request a private dance class: Some dancers are offering private lessons on request. For those who can afford the extra expense, it’s a way to support the community while learning and getting a much-needed distraction.
4. Donate your theater ticket: Was the show you’ve been looking forward to canceled? Instead of asking for a refund, consider donating the cost to the theater instead.
5. Become a theater subscriber: Subscriptions, the beating heart of many theater companies, have been on a years-long downturn. Rebuild that base by committing vital funds and counting yourself as part of its community. You can take advantage of subscriber perks when programming is up and running again.
6. Buy CDs and vinyl rather than streaming music: This ensures that artists get a bigger chunk of the proceeds than they would through a streaming service. You can order CDs and vinyl from sites such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp, not just giants like Amazon and Apple. You also can buy music directly from the labels and, better still, the artists’ websites. The sound might be better, and you may encounter less spotty streaming caused by internet-use overload. Owning recordings is a good way to become more involved in how you listen to music, which can deepen your experience. And we need deep experience right now.
7. Mail-order from independent book and record stores: Some may still have knowledgeable clerks with whom you can consult over the phone.
8. Lobby for government support of the arts: In Britain, musicians and other independent artists are being guaranteed as much as 80% of their income for three months. Make it clear to local, state and federal officials that if they want your support, they must support the arts.
9. Buy existing art: Galleries with a range of prices, from under $100 to deep into six figures, have set up virtual viewing. Most artists don’t have gallery representation, so go to them directly. You’ll find many individuals — say, a nature photographer selling prints — are taking internet orders.
10. Commission art: Is there an artist out there whose work you really love? If you are able, commission a piece of work for yourself or a loved one to gaze at while in quarantine, or better yet to give as a celebratory gift for when COVID-19 is finally behind us.
11. Use social media: If you can’t afford to donate to a cause, consider leveraging the power of your social network. From art programs for kids to healthcare initiatives for artists, charitable causes are on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Promote the ones you like and spread the word. Can’t afford a painting? Share your love and appreciation for a local artist’s work on social. The artist may appreciate the promotion — and draw a patron through your network.
12. Subscribe to a publication, digital or print: The public conversation around art, artists and art organizations is essential. Subscriptions also help to support art writers, editors and other staffers covering the community. Journalists are also spreading spreading the word about ways you can help, as well as ways you can get help if you need it.
13. Register to vote: Few would choose a candidate based solely on their view of the role of art in American life, but that knowledge can inform your evaluation of choices.
14. Buy a museum catalog: It’s an alternative to an in-person visit. Many museum stores are still open for business online, and they offer much more than catalogs. Think fun gifts for the family members you can’t see for a while. Mother’s Day is just around the corner too.
15. Donate to a mutual-aid fund for artists: Many are cropping up to help all kids of artists demonstrating financial need. The Dramatists Guild Foundation, for example, is helping playwrights who have had their plays canceled. To find more, run a Google search for guilds and foundations that support specific types of workers affected by the pandemic.
16. Watch live or recorded theater: Many shows are being streamed on different platforms. Theaters are working with Actors’ Equity and other guilds to get people paid for the work, but they need customers to pay for the shows for there to be revenue to be split.
17. Watch and donate to an artist’s, comedian’s or musician’s livestream: Willie Nelson isn’t the only musician livestreaming from his living room. Find a band, musician or artist you particularly like, tune into their virtual shows and donate each time you do.
18. Buy merch: This is a particularly good way to get funds to touring musicians, dance troupes and theater groups that rely on moving physical merchandise — T-shirts, stickers, mugs and more — to shore up the cost of doing business. Be sure to buy directly from the organization, band or group.
19. Support the National Endowment for the Arts: The NEA is often a target of government funding cuts, so it’s more important now than ever to voice, and vote, your support. It remains open during the coronavirus pandemic and is receiving and reviewing grant applications, many of which will be crucial for nonprofit organizations seeking to stay afloat.
20. Donate to — or spread the word about — Artist Relief Fund: Launched in early April, this fund was created by a collective of seven national grant-making foundations that normally support the work of artists in better times. It aims to provide immediate financial assistance of $5,000 to 100 different artists each week through Sept. 1. With more money it can, of course, do even more.
21. Support artistic responses to the crisis: Artists serve as mirrors, reflecting society’s beauty and ills in new ways. Many are beginning to respond to the pandemic and will need an audience, and sometimes audience feedback, to continue their work. The Times recently reported, for example, on a coronavirus haiku and sound art project by Alan Nakagawa working in conjunction with the Orange County Museum of Art.
22. Track relief responses from established organizations: Large organizations like the Getty have the money and infrastructure to direct money to arts groups in efficient ways. Following where that money goes can help to identify vetted programs that could use other types of help, be it money or volunteered time.