Man, it’s been a rough stretch for arts organizations.
For those of us who grew up in Minneapolis, or who have enjoyed its arts community, things are starting to feel a little scary. Institutions that have existed for decades are disappearing, all struggling under the weight of a funding landscape that makes it difficult to survive. Intermedia Arts and the Soap Factory have shuttered, and will probably soon assume their fate as high-dollar apartment buildings. The Art Shanty Projects is staying off the ice this year because of cash-flow problems.
And the latest victim of this shifting tide? The MayDay Parade and Festival. You may have heard of it. This 45-year institution is attended by over 60,000 of us every year. It’s massive, it’s free, and it marks the end of our long winter (most years). The whole thing costs about $200,000 to fund, and the organization that runs it, In The Heart of the Beast Mask and Puppet Theatre, no longer has the money to continue operations in the way they always have.
So what can we do? Can MayDay be saved? Only the people of Minneapolis can decide. If we value our arts and cultural communities, we can no longer depend on big donors and foundations to keep them going for "free." We have to decide what these things are worth to us. And if we deem them worthy, we have to start giving.
It doesn’t have to be a lot. Small dollar donations are dropping at almost every arts organization in town. If you love MayDay, or Northern Spark, or a local museum, get a sustaining membership. Buy a ticket to a performance. Rent the venue for an event.
We millenials get blamed for killing a lot of industries, but we deserve the blame for this one, if we keep expecting the arts community to exist for free. We have to replace the donors who are dying off, or our cultural institutions will go to the grave with them.