Ten ways to help the Tampa Bay arts community
In recent weeks, I’ve been recommending online arts offerings from close by and far away. Lots more keep popping up, which is great, but here’s the thing: We can’t just sit back and watch, assuming everything will go back to normal in the future. We have to help these artists and arts organizations right now, or they might not have a future. Here are 10 ways you can pitch in.
1) Donate to the Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund. A joint effort of Creative Pinellas, the Pinellas Community Foundation and the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, the Pinellas Community Arts Relief Fund was established to mitigate the financial suffering of artists, arts organizations and arts businesses who faced cancellations and loss of opportunities due to COVID-19. The partner organizations were able to raise $70,000 in a matter of days, and additional donations over the next two weeks brought the total to $112,000. But, with over 300 applications, says Creative Pinellas, “the need far outweighs the demand.” The money raised so far is already in the process of being distributed, so applications for future grants are on hold for now while fundraising kicks into even higher gear.
2) Donate to Artist Relief. This is a national initiative, open to working artists in any genre and supported by a coalition of arts grant-makers and charitable foundations — and by donors like you. Artist Relief will distribute $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19; serve as an ongoing informational resource; and co-launch the COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, designed by Americans for the Arts, to better identify and address the needs of artists moving forward.
3) Go on a Virtual ArtWalk. St. Pete’s Second Saturday Art Walk is always a fun occasion, a chance to browse and mingle in downtown galleries and beyond. Well, the mingling may be out for the time being, but the browsing — and the buying — are still on. On Sat. May 9, the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance (SPAA) will host its second Virtual ArtWalk from 5-9 p.m.; check with the Arts Alliance website for details. According to an SPAA survey, ArtWalk galleries and studios are suffering to the tune of $48,000 monthly by not being open due to the pandemic, so your support on Saturday will mean a lot.
4) Leave a tip in a Virtual Tip Jar. Many talented local singers are giving mini-performances online and offering the chance to leave a tip via Venmo or PayPal. Check out this one, for instance, by the marvelous Becca McCoy, who sings three songs on the theme of connection in her 10-minute “Quarantine Cabaret,” including a heartfelt version of “At Last” that’s alive with the joyous surprise of falling in love.
5) Turn your ticket into a donation. American Stage is telling patrons they can hold on to their tickets for The People Downstairs, Footloose or the Gala Under the Stars because the company plans to resume those productions later in the year. You could also exchange those tickets for a future performance of another production. Or… you could do this: “Convert the value of your ticket into a charitable donation in support of American Stage, a 501(c)(3).” Like every other theater company in the nation whose seasons have been truncated by COVID-19, they could use the help.
6) Buy a gift certificate. Get your holiday shopping done early, help out your favorite arts organization and place a vote of confidence in the future — all with one purchase. Give the gift of music with a Florida Orchestra gift certificate; give the gift of art with a gift membership to the Tampa Museum of Art; give the gift of art by buying an artwork by one of the artists featured at the Morean Arts Center or giving a class at the Dunedin Fine Art Center. The possibilities are endless and the need is great.
7) Buy a subscription.Talk about a vote for the future: Buy a 2020-21 season subscription to your favorite arts organization or venue and you can help ensure that its new season will happen. The Straz Center has a terrific Broadway series lined up, including Tony favorites Hadestown, The Band’s Visit and the revival of To Kill A Mockingbird.
8) Learn a craft and support an artist. Florida CraftArt is sharing its artists’ knowhow with a new line of products you can purchase online. First up: A “Sea Star Beading Kit” by Eleanor Pigman, which contains “(almost) everything you need to make your very own bead embroidered Sea Star,” including felt, seed beads, a mat, backing board — even needle and thread. Order it here.
9) Read Ray Roa’s tips on helping your favorite local musicians. Ray Roa, whom I had the pleasure of working with at Creative Loafing, is now the alt-weekly’s editor-in-chief and a font of knowledge on the local music scene. So he’s the expert you need to read if you’re concerned about keeping local music (and musicians) alive. This piece, written in the early days of the virus (March 18!), is full of good ideas, including “Commission a local musician to write a song for you or your loved one via Patreon or Downwrite.“
10) Support your local arts journalists. Speaking of Creative Loafing, if you want the local arts scene to thrive, now is the time to help CL and the Tampa Bay Times stay alive. True, arts coverage is shrinking in our local newspapers (along with every other kind of coverage), but people like Roa at CL and Maggie Duffy and Jay Cridlin at the Times are doing yeoman’s work in print and online, writing terrific pieces under conditions that are even more stressful than usual. Contribute to CL here and to the Times here. And don’t overlook the fine work being done online at Arts Coast Journal and St. Pete Catalyst; they need your support, and your eyeballs, too.
Full Disclosure Dept.: I’m on the board at Creative Pinellas, a partner in #1 (the Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund) and the host of Arts Coast Journal (#10).