According to Giving USA, a non-profit group that studies philanthropy, last year in the United States donations to cultural groups accounted for 5.2 percent of individual philanthropy, down from 8.1 percent a decade earlier.
And although 83 percent of adult Americans say they have contributed to a charity during the past 12 months, the Chronicle of Philanthropy says that donors were more likely to give that money to religious charities (35 percent), followed by groups that seek to curb hunger (34 percent), and organizations that deal with health issues (31 percent).
Now then, we can continue to pound the desks of our legislators, fighting over the dwindling funding, grant, and philanthropy crumbs available to arts and culture organizations, or we can start looking into alternative methods to fulfill our promise to future generations.
Let’s face it, when competition for dollars is between God, starving children, or $50,000 for a Wagnerian opera, it becomes quite obvious that the arts can no longer compete. It then becomes not a question of can we afford it, but rather how can we achieve the same illusion without spending the money. It is possible to get on with less, much less than we are, if we start looking at ourselves as partners with the business industry, rather than victims of a system that doesn’t understand our worth.
The answer is, of course, all around us in our cities, counties, and neighborhoods: partnerships.
Remember, it doesn’t cost millions of dollars to create great art. And, I can honestly guarantee you that the arts will survive, regardless of the size of our museums, concert halls, and annual budgets.
Let’s stop whining. There’s too much work to be done.