Most people have at least a passing interest in the arts. After all, research shows that just 50 minutes of art therapy can improve mood significantly, while lowering levels of pain and anxiety. And since more than 90% of all Americans feel that art is an important part of children’s education, it’s no surprise that people want to keep their local art centers alive.
Unfortunately, local art centers and artists alike often have a hard time making ends meet, and 2020 has been especially challenging. Artists teach workshops and sell at craft fairs to earn their living, and art museums rely on in-person visitors and generous donors. With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping most people at home and putting jobs of all kinds at risk, you can imagine how local arts scenes everywhere have suffered.
Thankfully, many people are finally getting their lives back on track, from finding new jobs to being allowed to go outside with proper protection. And even if you don’t have money to spare for donating, there’s a lot you can do to support your local art centers.
Why Local Art Is So Important
Most businesses address a practical, easily-defined need in society: grocery stores supply food so people won’t go hungry, contractors offer services like garage door replacement to keep people’s homes secure, etc. But for artists and museums, it’s harder to define exactly how they serve the community.
While local artists may not be the backbone of your hometown’s industry, they are essential for maintaining the spiritual integrity of a community. Much like a good church can foster relationships and provide encouragement, art helps people relax and find perspective when they most need to. Both enjoying art and creating art of your own can be a way for people to connect. And having a thriving artistic presence in your community ensures that you have a well-rounded hometown, allowing opportunities for children and adults alike to participate in something that speaks to them.
Having local art centers and museums can also draw in visitors from out of town, which is good for local businesses of all kinds. When a city fosters a unique and exciting culture, it helps everyone around it, both in terms of work and business opportunities and personal enjoyment.
Local artists may not offer the kind of practical benefits that grocers, accountants, and pest control services provide, but they’re no less important. After all, these services also help keep arts centers alive in the first place. The healthier the arts community is in your town, the better it is for everyone who lives there.
Luckily, there are many ways you can help your local art centers and creators thrive.
Donate to Artists and Art Centers
This is the simplest and most obvious suggestion on this list: donate money to your local art centers and artists. Just about every museum and attraction offers a way for you to support them directly through donations, and many small creators accept contributions through platforms like Patreon. If you want to contribute to the arts but don’t have much extra time for getting involved, sending a regular donation to your local art museum and artists you like is a great idea.
Buy Local Art
Many museums rely primarily on donations to keep their doors open, and every artist appreciates being given money so they can continue their work. But the real purpose of art is to experience and enjoy it, not just to pay for its creation. In fact, many artists would probably prefer that you buy a piece they made instead of donating, because having people enjoy their work is the reason for what they do in the first place.
Supporting local businesses whenever you can is good for your town’s economy and community, and the same is true of supporting local creators. So the next time you need to buy a gift for someone, consider getting them a CD recorded by a local artist, or an ornament from a local craftsman. The next time you need to decorate a room, buy a painting from a local gallery or directly from an artist.
Besides supporting local art, owning and giving locally-made items is great for sparking interesting conversations. From one-of-a-kind gifts to unique decor that you won’t find anywhere else, try to buy local artwork whenever you can.
Participate in the Community
Supporting local businesses is wonderful, but aside from buying their services, there aren’t usually many ways to get involved. After all, how many communities do you know of that center around AC duct repair? But when it comes to the arts, things are completely different.
There are thousands, if not millions, of online groups and forums dedicated to creating and appreciating art. There may even be several based solely in your local area, such as a local book club or artist community. Since art is something that focuses on sharing and community, it’s not hard to involve yourself in the local arts scene, even if you aren’t an artist yourself.
You can get involved by attending local events and concerts, learning new skills from local artisans, and of course, visiting your art center or museum. You can help spread the word and keep local art alive by sharing posts about these things on social media. And don’t underestimate the value in simply having a conversation with someone online about local artists and events you’ve attended.
Ask Your Arts Center How You Can Help
Aside from donating, buying artwork, or attending events, you should consult your local art center before doing any of the suggestions on this list. It’s also a good idea to find out what particular needs they have so you can respond accordingly. You may have a large sum of money you’d like to use for your local arts community, or you might run a business that can provide much-needed services to a local museum, such as parking lot paving.
Even if you aren’t rich and don’t have a business, you may have skills or knowledge that can be useful to local art centers. If you’re a natural teacher or organizer, you might lead a school field trip to visit art centers or studios. Or you might be skilled at web design or have a large social media following, and could help out your community on the digital front.
There are lots of people with useful skills out there, but the most important quality of all is a desire to help. You may not feel like you’re the most qualified to contribute, but if you’re passionate about the arts and want to see them thrive in your community, you shouldn’t hold back from helping wherever you can.
Organize a Fundraising Event
Local art centers and museums have to operate more or less like businesses do, paying for things like commercial HVAC services to keep the place open. Although they have the same operating costs that every business has, they aren’t able to focus on profits first like businesses are. Whether they’re preserving ancient artifacts or supporting new artists, these institutions have a responsibility to the community, and they often take it very seriously.
Sadly, art organizations are often overworked and under-staffed, and they struggle to earn enough in donations to keep going. Of course, they can always organize a fundraiser for new projects and regular upkeep. But they may not always have the time or resources they need to manage a fundraiser on top of doing their regular work.
If you have good organizational skills, or even if you’re just keen on helping out, you might be qualified to start a fundraising event on your own.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to start by talking to your art center directly to find out what they need help with. It’s easier to promote a fundraising campaign when you have a specific need that you’re focusing on, such as elevator modernization to make the center more safe and up-to-date.
There are several ways to go about starting a fundraiser. You could organize an event to promote the art center and raise funds, such as a charity auction or raffle. Or you could use a crowdfunding platform like GoFundMe to earn the money you need over the course of a few weeks. When it comes to ways and means of raising money for local art centers, the sky’s the limit.
Facilitate Repairs and Renovations
Like we said, art centers and museums have the same operating expenses that any business would have. Besides the usual work like business electrical installations, museums have to use specialized systems and services to keep art in good condition. These maintenance costs can add up fast.
Fortunately, many businesses are happy to offer their services at a discount to charities and organizations that support a good cause. This is especially the case for smaller local businesses, which will often contribute to charities and cultural movements in order to make their brand look good to potential customers.
Even though deals like these exist, the people actually operating your local arts center might not have the time to go after them. That’s where you might be able to help.
Find out what services, repairs, or renovations your art center needs, like elevator repairs. Then find the best elevator company in your area and ask what discounts they might be willing to offer the center. Depending on the business, they might offer a substantial discount off their normal rate, or they might agree to do the work for free in exchange for a brief mention in the center’s next newsletter or flier.
Once you find out what kind of offer the local services are willing to make, get back in touch with the art center to let them know. If you can make the initial connection and negotiate a deal on the art center’s behalf, you can be sure they’ll appreciate it greatly.
Recommend or Participate in Field Trips
School field trips are great for local art communities. Not only do they expose children to fine arts and craftsmanship, many of which have been practiced for centuries, but they also give artists a chance to demonstrate their skills. In the long run, they can keep local art alive by helping new generations develop an interest in them.
Art museums are a fairly obvious destination for school field trips. But you shouldn’t assume the schools in your area have already explored all the possibilities for educational, stimulating field trips. Some destinations are less obvious, like glass blowing workshops or music studios, but would still be interesting and exciting places for children to visit. You could research places like these around your hometown and get in touch with them to find out whether they allow student visits.
With a list of potential destinations, you could then get in touch with local schools and make suggestions to them for their next field trips. You might even be given the chance to help organize or supervise these trips.
Teachers and school employees are often busy, and may not have much time to put into organizing trips like these. The work you do could have a positive impact on both the school staff and their students, and it might even help a few students realize entire new paths for their lives.
Host a Speaking Event at the Arts Center
One of the best ways to get people out of the house and involved in community efforts is to host an event. And one of the best ways to get people interested in an event is to get a paid international speaker to visit.
If you have money to hire a speaker, or if you know an expert who would be willing to speak at your art center for free, this can be a great way to promote interest in your local arts scene. The speaker doesn’t have to be a celebrity or widely-known expert to draw a crowd — as long as you point out what they’ve accomplished and how their talk will be interesting, you can easily get people interested.
A speaking engagement like this might be used to raise money and awareness for an art museum. Or it might promote local art centers’ services and events. It can also be a great way to unveil a new exhibit, or launch a new line of locally-made products. Just about anything you could want to turn into event can be improved with a knowledgeable guest speaker.
Learn Something New
It’s wonderful to support the arts, but it’s important to engage with them as well. The purpose of art is to improve people’s lives, and when you open yourself up to it, you’re letting it serve its purpose. You can experience art just by appreciating what other people have made, but perhaps the best way to engage with art is to create it yourself.
Many artists and craftsman are eager to share their knowledge with others, and some even earn their living by teaching what they do. You could spend an evening learning how to paint with watercolors, and it would have the potential to enrich your whole life from then on. You’d also be supporting local artists and helping art to thrive through you.
From helping local art centers get services they need, like tree removal companies, to engaging with local artists, these are just a few ways you can support art in your area.