Giving Thanks

Posted by Stephanie Milling On December - 4 - 2013
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

Perhaps the holidays have made me somewhat sentimental this year. As I pondered what to write for this blog post, I kept returning to how thankful I am to have had a career in the arts. I have been able to make a living doing what I love to do, share that passion with my students, and encourage them to pursue a career that will provide artistic and intellectual stimulation as well as a possible lifetime of inspiration. Of course, my professional achievements would never have been possible without influential role models and access to the arts from a young age.

Therefore, I try to pay it forward by acknowledging my mentors and the opportunities I was afforded. Giving back by participation and service in initiatives and projects that help sustain the quality of the arts and arts education for future generations is my duty. This week, I offer a list of how to give thanks for how the arts have enriched our lives. For most of us reading this blog, this practice would be commonplace. Therefore, consider it one individual’s humble attempt to spread awareness of the many ways we can support the arts and the beginning of a larger conversation that illustrates the priceless benefits that accompany such efforts. I encourage you to add additional ideas to this preliminary list and share them with your community. Perhaps some ideas of different ways to become involved in the arts will help create new spectators, volunteers, and donors.

  1. Make a donation to a local arts organization. Donating money is an obvious way to demonstrate support for the arts, and organizations usually have various donor levels to accommodate many tax brackets. Donations are usually tax deductible and may come with special opportunities to interact with artists who are sustained by such financial support. In addition, employment with some corporations guarantees a matched donation, which could double your intended contribution. Between December 3 and 31st, The Giving Library is enabling individuals to make donations that do not require money from their own pockets. Five minutes of your time is all that it requires!
  • Volunteer at a local arts organization. If a financial gift is not an option, volunteering at a local arts organization enables you to donate your time in lieu of cash. Volunteering with your busy schedule might seem a little daunting at first; however, many arts organizations have specific one-time events that require extra hands on deck. Volunteers perform a variety of tasks. In addition, volunteering might involve opportunities to enjoy the event itself.
  • Donate space, materials, or services to local arts organizations. Sometimes an arts organization like a theatre or university might benefit from material donations. My family has made it a practice to donate distinctive clothing to local theatres that might be usable in future productions. Some professional nonprofit organizations that provide valuable services for its members might benefit from access to space to hold events. In addition, smaller nonprofit organizations might benefit from specialized services such as web design, strategic planning, and legal services that individuals are willing to provide pro bono or for a reduced fee. In return, arts organizations also have valuable services that they can provide to local businesses. Read more about Arts and Business Partnerships to get ideas.
  • Go see a performance or exhibit in your area and support local artists. Ticket sales are one of the easiest ways to support the arts and your local economy. Attending an arts event in a metropolitan area might involve other spending such as going to dinner at a local restaurant and parking. In addition to spending additional money that will support the local economy, attendance at arts events provides museums and theatres with data that help them demonstrate their impact in the community to granting organizations. Explore the economic impact of the arts in more detail through the research compiled by Americans for the Arts.
  • Spread the word about arts events in your area. Offering to spread the word about an arts event in your area informs members of the community of events with which they are unfamiliar and could possibly result in new spectators and participants. Agreeing to post a flyer or poster advertising an event or distribute postcards to coworkers and friends requires little effort and expands an organization’s target market for events.
  • Become an arts advocate. Do you enjoy having access to the arts and believe that artistic ventures and education programs should continue to be funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, your state arts commission, and your local arts council? If so, follow legislation that impacts the arts and contact your member of Congress and/or your state legislator when issues that will impact the arts are up for a vote. Your voice is a powerful tool in keeping the arts on the forefront of politicians’ minds. Americans for the Arts  makes it easy for you. Sign up at the Arts Action Center  to stay informed and receive emails that indicate when it is time to jump into action, and visit the State Arts Action Network to find information about your state-level appropriations and advocacy organizations.

How do you support the arts this holiday season? Share your stories with others to promote the season of giving.

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Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.