COMMENTARY: Year-end giving to small arts groups pays it both forward and backward

More than a write-off, it's a community investment

CINCINNATI -- I’m not an economist, financial adviser or lottery winner, but this much I do know—a lot of people looking to shave a little off the top of their taxable liability give money at the end of the year to nonprofit organizations.

Large arts groups—that is, those that can afford development and marketing departments—often pepper their email lists in December with pleas for year-end gifts. Today, I’m standing up for the little guy, making a pitch for just a handful of small arts organizations worthy of your support—now and year-round.

I’d argue these groups and others of their size are the lifeblood of a city’s artistic vitality. They often serve participants and audiences with no other outlet to partake, intake or commune through that particular art form. That is, without them, no other organization would be there to fill the void.

When you support small arts organizations, your investment goes further. Your $20 means much more to, say, a neighborhood chamber music association than to a symphony orchestra with an endowment in the tens of millions. And if you have it within you to give $100 or more, who knows—you might have a chair named after you. I mean, an actual chair.

Art Beyond Boundaries (artbeyondboundaries.com) Art Beyond Boundaries is a gallery in Over-the-Rhine dedicated to artists with disabilities. You can get a taste for the gallery’s work through this video I produced this fall about an exhibition featuring two longtime local artists. The gallery, which also has a professional development program and arms for education and outreach, falls under the nonprofit umbrella of The Center for Independent Living Options . You can make your donation to Art Beyond Boundaries through the Center.

Elementz (elementz.org) On paper, Elementz is a community and media center in Over-the-Rhine focused on hip-hop arts education and participation. When you’re inside the center, at the foot of Over-the-Rhine, it’s clear Elementz is a literal lifeline to some of the city’s most vulnerable teens and young adults. Programs focus on dance, video and music production, poetry, turntabling and more. There are classes, performances and collaborative projects with other organizations .  

Frank Simon Band (franksimonband.org) The band’s namesake died in 1967, after making his mark through the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the John Philip Sousa Band and the College Conservatory of Music. But the Frank Simon Band lives on to preserve original band music and commission composers to write for the band medium. The band also supplements school music programs with workshops, lecture demonstrations and formal concerts. This year, the band began a free summer concert series.

Linton Music (lintonmusic.org) Chamber music retains its intimacy through Linton Music, which preserves founding director Dick Waller’s vision of creating a concert atmosphere of “music-making among friends.” Linton offers a six-concert chamber series at First Unitarian Church in Avondale and five Monday concerts each season at at Congregation Beth Adam in Loveland, along with a series designed for children ages 2 to 6.

Manifest Gallery and Studio Drawing Center (manifestgallery.org ) Rooted in a 3,000-square-foot center in Madisonville, Manifest covers every element of the drawing process, from classes, open labs and artist residencies to gallery exhibitions and publishing. The drawing center, itself, is a draw-at-your-own pace environment—there are a range of plaster casts and busts and a life-sized skeletal among the available models, and participants often post on their own to the center's online Studio Wall

Pones Inc. (ponesinc.wordpress.com) Performance art and public dance are rarities in Cincinnati, and Kim Popa’s company, Pones Inc., for now has that realm largely to itself. Though Pones often collaborates with a number of performing arts groups and productions, Pones is better known for its site-specific and often-surprise performances on transit buses, in parks, libraries, grocery stores and other spaces populated by unsuspecting masses. Popa’s intent is to help people see public space—and the people inhabiting them—in different ways.

Tiger Lily Press (tigerlilypress.org) A team of volunteer printmakers runs this studio inside the Dunham Recreation Center. Founded in 1978, Tiger Lily Press offers printmaking classes, studio space to emerging and established printmakers, occasional exhibitions and an annual sale.

Women Writing for a Change (womenwriting.org) Writers at all ages and experience levels are welcomed into the fold of Women Writing for a Change. There’s a sheen of zen/wellness to the group’s classes and retreats, which focus on everything from journaling and poetry to long-form fiction. The group also produces anthologies and operates a book club and online bookstore.

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