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Thought Leadership Philanthropy

There’s no business like show business – arts ingenuity in the wake of COVID-19

By Alicia Philipp, president, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Edgar Degas said “art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” As I read through the list of grants announced last week from our Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund, we are at war with a virus we cannot see. While many nonprofits are struggling, the arts sector faces a particularly brutal crisis with performances canceled, exhibits shuttered and event educational offerings eliminated. It’s a sector that takes its lifeblood from the gathering of people, so even as businesses are starting to reopen, arts organizations are facing months with no earned revenue and an uncertain future.

And yet – Atlanta’s arts sector is innovating to not only survive, but to remind us of humanity’s breathtaking beauty. The sheer creative ingenuity of these amazing artists – and all of the staff, board members and volunteers that are the sector’s oxygen – to ramp up and rally to keep creating in the COVID-19 age is astounding. Many of them have even banded together to create ArtBeatsATL.com, a free online platform for arts programming for those sheltering at home.

A survey of 55 Atlanta arts organizations conducted by Dad’s Garage — about a third of the region’s organizations — showed a loss thus far of more than $10 million in income because of canceled performances. You can read more information about that survey and the impact of COVID-19 on our region’s arts organizations in this article in Arts ATL.

Last week, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta announced $580,000 in grants for arts organizations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis through our Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund. Since its genesis in 1993 the Arts Fund has focused on small to midsize arts organizations with annual operating budgets under $2 million. The twelve organizations listed below were selected for grants during an open application and rolling award process. Future grants will be awarded every two weeks as response to the COVID-19 crisis continues. You can read the full press release here. We’ve also pivoted our A Place to Perform program to provide COVID-19 support, and grants are forthcoming.

These grant applications were reviewed by Community Foundation staff who looked at how organizations have adapted in the current environment and their plans for the remainder of the year in an uncertain environment. Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund grants were then decided with the counsel of a panel of arts industry veterans. After the panel’s review of the applications, I thought donor Virginia Hepner said it best, “With these grants we’re investing in leadership from both organization staff and their boards of directors, recognizing that strong vision, leadership and innovation are essential to keeping our arts sector exhibiting and performing in new ways through this crisis.”

While those grants and the ones that our organization will make in the coming weeks will help, Atlanta’s arts organizations are still suffering. They need your help, my help, help from all of us now, more than ever. It’s a crucial time that will dictate the survival of these organizations that are an economic driver in Atlanta and an essential component of our collective regional character and spirit.   

So, I urge you to give. You can reach out to the Community Foundation to learn more about giving a gift to our Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund. You might also consider a gift to your favorite arts organization in recognition of the joy they have brought to you through shared experiences. If you purchased tickets to an exhibit or performance that was canceled, consider the cost a contribution to the organization in lieu of a refund. Or, buy a membership or subscription to use later. Now is the time to support Atlanta’s arts sector. The show must go on – so let’s applaud through taking an action today, and together.

Feature photo courtesy of Moving in the Spirit

Photography: JD Scott

Dancer: Briana Heath

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