The Puget Sound region’s arts world is battling to endure COVID-19. Theaters, concert halls and art galleries have stood empty for months and will remain so for an undefined period.
Even when society begins to reopen, shoulder-to-shoulder sellout crowds will likely remain a memory of the pre-contagion era for some time. Donations have dried up as funders worry about their own finances while the economy continues its free fall.
Help to preserve the city’s creative soul continues unabated, however. Culturally minded citizens and organizations should contribute if possible.
ArtsFund is in its 50th year of providing assistance for organizations throughout central Puget Sound via grant money to endeavors large and small. Over that time, the program has injected $89 million into 240 regional arts groups, trained nearly 800 people to serve on organizational boards and performed an invaluable civic aid to giving King, Pierce and Snohomish counties a world-class arts scene.
This year’s campaign reflects the challenge coronavirus brought. The annual fundraiser is canceled, and grant money is going out months early — even before the $2.66 million fundraising goal is reached — to 66 cultural organizations, from National Nordic Museum in Ballard to Hilltop Artists in Tacoma.
That drive is almost three-fourths of the way to its target. It deserves broad support so the planned next round of grants can also be ample.
This year, in a textbook example of rising to an unprecedented challenge, ArtsFund is raising a special fund to help artists or organizations imperiled by COVID-19.
An ArtsFund survey of 90 arts organizations in the region found almost 5,000 people in arts-related jobs have been laid off or furloughed since the pandemic started. Even down to core staffs, organizations are hard-pressed to keep the doors open. ArtsFund estimates cultural revenue losses approaching $135 million.
The new Arts Emergency Relief Fund provides immediate help. It has already put $2.6 million into shoring up 80 organizations with coronavirus-specific needs so they can reopen when possible.
Especially during hard times, the generosity that makes this help available is heartwarming. ArtsFund’s interim president and CEO, Sue Coliton, said the nonprofit expected that the region’s largest foundations and businesses would be the only ones able to back the relief fund. Not so.
“The largest number of gifts came from the general public, people who didn’t necessarily support the arts regularly but wanted to do something to help,” she said.
Everyone able and eager to see the Puget Sound region return to its pre-coronavirus vibrancy should support ArtsFund via artsfund.org/donatenow.