ArtsFund helps keep arts alive during tough times

The News TribuneFebruary 19, 2014 

Patricia Davison, left, instructs Sgt. Ronnie Bernardo in how to make glass beads last week at the museum’s hot shop.

When the recession hit, arts groups took a dive along with just about every other segment of society.

But even though donations from individuals and businesses dried up, forcing many arts groups to close their doors, public participation didn’t falter much. It just changed. Instead of buying expensive Saturday night tickets to shows, for example, patrons went to less expensive weekday performances. Instead of maintaining a museum membership, they attended on free or low-cost days.

Now that the economy is improving, it’s time for individuals and businesses to do more to help arts groups thrive.

That’s where ArtsFund comes in. The 45-year-old organization helps raise money for nonprofit arts groups that are vetted through a rigorous application process. Seven Pierce County groups receive general operating support money: the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum of Glass, Northwest Sinfonietta, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, Tacoma Opera and Tacoma Symphony.

The money they get — $182,800 in 2013 — is a vitally important component of the groups’ budgets. But Pierce County donors aren’t contributing their fair share. Collectively, King County donors are subsidizing arts groups here.

South Sounders should change that picture. Workplace giving through payroll deductions is one way, although individuals and businesses can also donate directly to ArtsFund, which kicked off its Pierce County campaign earlier this month.

In keeping with the trend toward online crowd-funding, ArtsFund also offers a Kickstarter-like vehicle to help the region’s arts groups: Power2Give.org/PugetSound. Donors can select from a menu of projects seeking funding. So far the site has raised more than $205,000 for 58 projects.

In Pierce County, for instance, Lakewood Playhouse is seeking funds for a wireless assistive listening system for hearing impaired patrons, the Broadway Center would like to give 11th-graders at five Tacoma schools a chance to see August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” and the Tacoma Symphony wants to present two interactive concerts at the Lakewood branch of the South Sound Boys and Girls Clubs — worthy projects all.

It’s a myth that the arts are for older, wealthier people. Arts groups have made terrific strides at being more inclusive and reaching out to underserved communities, from the low-income to people with disabilities.

And the arts are good business, accounting for 32,520 jobs in the Central Puget Sound region and about $2 billion in sales. For everything they contribute to our civic well-being, arts groups deserve the community’s strong support.

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