Should You Donate to the Arts?

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You probably read Romeo and Juliet multiple times between high school and college classes. You have probably sat through an extremely boring play where the actors were so terrible that you wanted to roll your playbill up and shove it in your ears. So when I tell you that it is important for philanthropists to fund the arts, you might cringe and say you’ll write a check to American Red Cross instead.

There is nothing wrong with the Red Cross’ mission, and you should consider writing them a check. However, your initial reaction to my suggestion that you fund the arts, is the exact reason you should be researching theatre groups, art galleries, etc. and finding a specific one which interests you.

The Philanthropy News Digest recently released an article outlining some reasons why philanthropists should fund the arts and also highlighted some reasons the arts are underfunded by philanthropists. Some reasons they included were that donors don’t always know specifically what the money is going towards when they fund the arts, whereas if they donate to a food drive they know exactly what they are providing and accomplishing. Another common reason people do not donate to the arts is that it is hard to judge the impact the arts make on the community.

While these are just points there is an undeniable correlation between art and the betterment of a community. For centuries art has been used as a tool to influence people, and in the right hands in the right moment it can do wonders. Just think of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Issues with philanthropists wish to donate to can be donated to through the arts.

For example, if you wanted to donate to a cause to help end sexual assault you might donate to RAINN. However, another alternative would be to donate to a theatre group, artist, etc. which tackles that issue with their art such as Over the Rainbow which uses theatre as an educational tool.

If you decide to help fund the arts, but want to make sure you know what you are funding will make a difference here are some tips that could help you find the perfect place to donate:

1. Find a cause you wish to donate to and then search for a theatre, artist, performer, etc. who deals with that issue in an art-based way.

2. Ask your friends or family member what the most inspirational performance they have ever seen was? Why?

3. Narrow your search down to a few possible selections and then look up audience/viewer’s responses. If you are still on the edge about donating, reach out to the theatre, artist, etc. and ask them why you should donate to them rather than an organization which will ‘“directly fight against the said issue”. More often than not, they will love to talk with you and give you as much information as they can.

About the Author: Julia-Kaye is an undergraduate at the University of Iowa studying English, mass communications, and theatre. She hopes to work in the media business to help alter the way women are depicted.

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