We Need to Invest in Local Arts | Opinion

Elizabeth Rouse, Guest Columnist
Published: 4:00 a.m. CT | November 14, 2020 | The Daily Memphian

We Need to Invest in Local Arts


When we look back on this time, what will we see or remember? The ever-changing variables in today’s economic, social, political, and health landscape are difficult to define or, arguably, even describe. But despite the uncertainty, time and time again, I know who to turn to as our storytellers.

Artists are our storytellers. From dark desperation to bright, unbridled optimism and all points in between, I believe local artists and art organizations are the paintbrushes of our culture’s canvas.

These individuals and institutions interpret our current economic and social pressures, engage our communities, record our feelings, and use their unique tools to show us perspectives that both comfort and challenge us. Whether through written or spoken word, dance or design, they illustrate perspectives and responses.

Last month, I tuned in to our grantee Memphis Choral Arts’ virtual fall concert , a collaboration with Memphis Children’s Chorale, Memphis Youth Chorale, and area high school and church choirs that represent the four geographic corners of Shelby County.

The theme – 4corners4peace – explored “unity and peace within community amid the current turmoil of the global pandemic and racial and political unrest.” The diversity in performers and their harmonic melodies still resound amidst my daily work.

Then, last week, I tuned in to our grantee Ballet Memphis’ virtual production of “Out of the Blue,” a riveting piece “born out of the roller coaster of emotions we’ve all felt this past year.” Its exploration of time, space, energy through choreography and orchestra provoked pain while healing us in the process.

These artistic responses, and countless others we’ve consumed and appreciated over the past eight months, have been a gift.

Today, our continued response to the significant needs of our local arts community has culminated into ArtsMemphis’ “Invest in the Arts” year-end campaign. Our task at hand is to carry these artists and arts organizations into 2021.

ArtsMemphis awarded $2.8 million to 71 local organizations and hundreds of artists and individuals employed in the arts sector just this year, thanks to the generosity of so many within our community and watching our community.

But with a projected $20 million income loss in fiscal year 2020 among our grantees, ongoing contributions are critical. While the impacts are devastating, arts organizations and artists continue to be resilient, creative, and collaborative during these challenging times.

This campaign celebrates and sustains just that – not just to nourish their bodies, but to feed their special talents that in turn will feed our souls now and in the future.

Let’s invest in the arts today for a powerful return.

Posted by Josie Ballin at 10:28 AM
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