Last night, I had the opportunity to watch one of my students perform with Jason Mraz. Yes, Jason Mraz, as in the Grammy-award winning, internationally recognized singer (born and raised right here in Richmond, VA!)
As I sat there watching the show unfold, I fell more and more in love with my city and with the arts opportunities it provides. SPARC (School of Performing Arts in the Richmond Community) was the organization I was honored to see perform last night. That school truly took art to a new level with their show Live Art. They integrated children with and without special needs; intertwined dance, live music, singing, theater, miming, sign language, and computer graphics. In other words, they took the human experience and let it shine through various forms. There was so much to watch and be inspired by.
The school collaborated with: The Faison School for Autism, Richmond Ballet’s Minds in Motion, Dreamers Theater, Richmond Boy’s Choir, Richmond City Public Schools, Henrico County Public Schools, Chesterfield County Public Schools, Collegiate School, Northstar Academy, Virginia Department for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and JAMinc. Each one of these organizations shined on stage. Each one so very deserving of the overwhelming cheers and standing ovation as the curtain closed on a tremendously successful collaboration of arts in our city.
If anyone has ever wondered why funding the arts is important… Here is why, and here is how:
Why should I fund the arts?
1. The budgets for arts education in public schools has been reduced dramatically. “While funding does exist at the national, state, and local levels for arts programs in public schools, it should be noted that various grants piecemealed together will not lead to quality, sequential arts education.” (Source: Americans for the Arts). Teachers are having to buy art supplies from their personal salaries. Teachers are having to spend time, unpaid, to rehearse with their students, purchase costumes, find stage space. This much financial responsibility, if put on one or a few individuals, will eventually start to feel heavy… and the programs disintegrate.
2. Arts education is crime prevention. Children who find an interest, and have a way to pursue continuing education in those interests (even if they cannot afford it) are more likely to lead successful, confident, and stable lives. They are also more likely to stay in school and stay successful in school. Research studies have shown relationships between the arts are better grades, as well as a direct improvement in the behavior and study habits of at-risk youth. (Read more about the research here!)
3. Arts organizations need help from individuals and the money makes a difference. I never wonder where my money goes when I donate to arts organizations, because I can see it on stage, in smiles of children, under bright lights. No matter where the money goes… to help pay a teacher or an assistant, to help buy fabric for a costume, to go towards paying to rent the stage, to print marketing to promote the show… every stage of the arts (the artistic process or the administration behind it) works their hardest to teach, teach, teach. And that means, you are investing in someone and something larger than yourself. You are setting lives on new tracks.
How do I fund the arts?
1. Find a local organization that you absolutely adore. If you aren’t sure how to locate one, start with Google and search for your interest (Dance, Singing, Visual Arts, Signing, Music) and your city.
2. Attend one of their events. Go and see their work; see what they are doing in the community. Note: Purchasing a ticket to an arts event is already showing your financial support! Good job!
3. Get their website. Once you have their website, visit and find how you can help. They may be seeking volunteers (and perhaps you are just the person they need!) and they can always use financial backing. When it comes to financially backing an arts organization, you become their blood line. That money is used directly for the larger purpose.
4. Most of the time, a donation to an arts organization is tax deductible. You’ll get a receipt of your donation to write off on your taxes. Another sign that you have done something life-changing in your community. Thank you.
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” – Anna Lappe
Cast a vote for the arts in your community, in the lives of your community’s children, in your community’s future.