Supporting the arts while social distancing

How you can contribute to the Charlottesville arts scene, even from afar

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Social distancing and quarantines make it seem difficult to support local arts. But it is possible — and enjoyable! 

Ananya Suram | Cavalier Daily

Cancellation announcements and plans for flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic have been rolling into inboxes at a breakneck pace over the past few weeks. At the local level, the University extended spring break and moved classes online, the Virginia Festival of the Book was canceled and multiple upcoming events at John Paul Jones Arena — including the Dan + Shay concert and the Harlem Globetrotters show — were postponed. Movie premieres have been delayed and museums are closing left and right.

News about the coronavirus has been unavoidable, and the fact that many forms of traditional escapism have been banned has made fear of the virus even more overwhelming. It’s hard not to feel hopeless right now, and honestly, taking the time to wallow in disappointment is fully valid. We are allowed to be upset that our spring break plans were canceled, we are allowed to miss our friends and favorite classes and we are allowed to be scared. 

That said, we also need to exhibit widespread compassion in the face of contagion. The disruption of social scenes across the globe will impact the incomes of many who make a living by interacting with the public, including those in the entertainment industry. The local Charlottesville arts scene has been a staple part of the student experience at the University, and one way we can all feel like we’re doing something to help is by supporting the arts scene from afar. Here are a few ways you can do just that.

Donate a portion of ticket refunds 

Large gatherings are being banned all across the nation, meaning that ticket refunds are in the futures of many disappointed patrons. This also means that a lot of local venues, organizations and people are losing money. One way to combat this is by donating a portion of your ticket refund to the theater or organization that was supposed to host the canceled event. The Paramount Theater, one of the premiere local venues in Charlottesville, sent an email out to past patrons asking for donations in lieu of ticket refunds. The Paramount is a nonprofit organization that already relies on community donations to cover operating costs — donations alone usually cover only a third of the total cost. Now, with no ticket sales, the importance of donating is — pardon the pun — paramount.  Information on donating to different venues can generally be found on the organization’s website. Many of us expected to be out that amount of money anyway, so donating at least some portion so that we can go to events in the future is actually not an unreasonable ask.

If you are able, perhaps donate to events that usually aren’t ticketed. The Virginia Festival of the Book, an event that is usually free to attend, published a short announcement on the importance of donating, reminding the public that, “the festival is free of charge, not free of cost.” 

Take advantage of the ways in which local businesses are adapting

For small business owners all across Charlottesville, the combination of social distancing and much of the University student population being gone means that a large chunk of the consumer base has disappeared. Many people still have to go out to work even in the face of social distancing, so look up how your favorite small businesses are adapting to the change. Many local restaurants and cafes — such as Milli Coffee Roasters — are offering carside or delivery-based service. The New Dominion Bookshop is following suit, closing their public browsing space but offering over the phone purchases that can be delivered to your doorstep or picked up curbside at the store. Gift cards can also be purchased over the phone. 

Make use of digital money transferring 

Many freelance creatives, activists and speakers — especially those on the local level — have had their main form of income completely eradicated due to social distancing. Events are being canceled months ahead of time, meaning a lot of these people have had their expected budgets and access to resources thrown into the unknown. Take a moment to search social media to see if the person you were going to see is promoting a Patreon or other form of digital content that you can financially support — this is a good place for a portion of ticket refunds to go to as well. 

Through Patreon, financial support gets you exclusive content from the creator. If you’re looking for a local activist to support, grassroots activist and first-year College student Zyahna Bryant, who has had all of her upcoming engagements canceled in the face of COVID-19, has set up a Patreon. If you were going to see a very famous artist, look up local equivalents that may need the money more. A good place to start would be the lists of canceled shows and events provided by local venues.

Outside of the Patreon route, reach out directly to artists and creatives of all kinds to see if they offer direct digital downloads of their work, or, if the work is a physical piece of art, if they could accommodate shipping or curbside pickup. This allows the artist to set the price without any middlemen taking a cut. When it comes to music, keep streaming smaller artists, and maybe support the artist via Bandcamp, which provides fairer pay to artists compared to traditional streaming platforms.

These three methods are by no means a comprehensive list of everything that could be done to support the local arts scene, or of every organization, person or group that needs support, but they are a place to start. It’s critical that we implement social distancing to protect the most vulnerable among us, even though the immediate sacrifice of the things we love and were excited for really stings. Supporting the local arts scene from afar, no matter how small the contribution, will help protect an industry that is based around bringing people together. There is a future beyond COVID-19 — let’s make sure it’s still full of the things we love.

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