This year has severely impacted all aspects of our economy, including the arts. This $352M Western New York industry that employees 10,000 full time equivalent staff positions has been decimated by COVID. Arts organizations are struggling to hang on to their staff, attract patrons and visitors, and provide some kind of content to stay relevant and continue fulfilling their missions. Individual artists are seeing a loss in sales and commissions and a lack of available work as these organizations have not yet been able to reopen or can only reopen at a limited capacity. And the longer this continues, the more devastating the impacts.
That is why we are encouraging everyone to support their favorite artists and arts organizations this holiday season in whatever way you can!
You can support #WNYArts in several ways:
The easiest way to support these businesses in need is to buy from them. Purchase art from local artists, buy a recording from a local music group, buy tickets to a streamed production, or buy a gift certificate that is good for a time when the organization is reopening. Many have their product available for purchase online, so you don’t even need to leave your house!
But, if you’re feeling adventurous or want the product in hand immediately, many cultural organizations have gift shops that feature work from various local artists. Or you can stop by a business such as the Rustic Buffalo Artisan Market in North Tonawanda that sells work from various local artisans or the Intersection Cafe in Buffalo that features work from local artists.There are also collective efforts, such as the Shop 716 e-Gift Card program. These gift cards support all local businesses that sign up to participate.
Prefer to shop on Amazon? Consider using Amazon Smile and select your favorite arts organization as your preferred charity. This means a percentage of your purchase will be donated back to the charity you select.
Nonprofit organizations rely on gifts from individuals and corporations to supplement their sales revenue and the gifts are tax-deductible. This year, in response to COVID, the federal government has expanded their tax deduction policy to encourage charitable giving! The CARES Act, passed by congress in March, is allowing taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions (who take the standard deduction) to deduct up to $300 for cash donations to qualifying organizations, including nonprofit charitable organizations. This “above-the-line” deduction is only good for 2020, so now is the time to take advantage of it.
In addition, for those who do itemize their deductions there is no cap on charitable giving for 2020. This means, you can write off your charitable gifts up to 100% of your adjusted gross income. Do you own a business? Corporations share a similar benefit. The tax write off limit for charitable corporate gifts has been increased to 25% (up from 10%) of their taxable income. Keep in mind that if your corporate organization received PPP support in 2020, there may be tax implications for your business. The best way to lessen the impact of those tax implications is to increase your charitable giving!
Advocate or Volunteer
Don’t have the financial means to support the arts industry right now? That’s ok! There are other ways you can use your voice and your time to support the arts. Right now, Congress is contemplating a bill that would provide a second round of COVID-19 economic relief. This $908 billion bi-partisan relief package would extend unemployment benefits and include a second round of PPP, as well as special funding to save our performing arts stages and venues. While this package is less than our economy needs, it would be helpful and much better than nothing!
You can use your voice to contact local representatives and encourage them to support the bill. Americans for the Arts’ Arts Action Center has put together a comprehensive webpage that lists everything you need to know about how to advocate to your elected officials, as well as get facts and statistics on the economic impact COVID has had on the arts industry.
If you’re looking for a direct way to support the local arts industry, contact your favorite arts or cultural organization and ask how you can help as a volunteer. Many need help in their gift shops, with mailings, marketing efforts, phone banks, virtual events, and more. While some opportunities require you to be in person, many organizations have opportunities for remote volunteers.
Even though things are difficult, there is so much to be thankful for this year. Our community has come together in ways that not only live up to our moniker of “City of Good Neighbors” but far surpasses expectations. We have all been impacted by COVID in some way and it is by working together that we will not only make it to the other side of this crisis, but come out stronger.