Miami's tourism-based economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic this year, but no community has suffered more than the arts and music sector. While restaurants and bars have repeatedly closed and reopened (albeit controversially), cultural spaces, which inherently lend themselves to mass gatherings, have largely remained shuttered or been forced to pivot to virtual operations.
With coronavirus cases surging once again, there could not be a better time for the return of Give Miami Day, the annual, one-day drive for donations and financial support for local charities and nonprofit organizations. This year's official day of giving is Thursday, November 19, but owing to the urgent need created by the pandemic, the Miami Foundation opened up donations early, on Monday, November 16.
Since 2012, Give Miami Day has raised more than $61 million for local organizations. In addition to donations from Miami locals, participating organizations have the chance to boost their earnings through sponsored bonus prizes and Power Hours, which spotlight specific community issues and the work that local organizations are doing in those areas. This year, the Miami Foundation has added Power Hours for Black- and LGBTQ-led charities and nonprofits working to strengthen their respective communities.
More than 800 organizations are participating in Give Miami Day this year, including about 150 arts, culture, and humanities charities. If you're unsure where to start, New Times has rounded up 11 cultural organizations below. Click here for the complete list of participating organizations.
Area Stage Company
Going strong in Miami for more than three decades, this theater company and conservatory counts Golden Globe-winner Oscar Isaac as an alum. But Area Stage Company was dealt a double blow this year by the coronavirus and the permanent closure of its home base at the Riviera Theatre after the building was sold to make room for a new Publix store.
After COVID hit, Area Stage shifted its youth conservatory (all 200 students and 20 classes) online. The company also released a recorded play in podcast form this month, and they're now in the process of building a new space at Sunset Place — ASC is raising funds to build an outdoor theater at the South Miami mall across the street from their former home. The outdoor theater "would allow us to produce theatre safely sooner" while the company continues searching for a permanent home, says Rebecca Ashton, Area Stage's director of conservatory education. Donate to Area Stage Company here.
Bakehouse Art Complex
Over the span of its 30-year history, Bakehouse Art Complex has aimed to provide affordable workspaces, professional development programs, and exhibitions to local artists. But the organization hit its own financial roadblock this year when it was forced to close its studios and artmaking spaces for two months while Miami's shelter-in-place order was in effect.
Since BAC reopened in June with safety protocols in place, the organization has hosted some in-person programming, including Summer Artist Open, which provided free studio spaces to 12 Miami-based artists for a 12-week residency. Bakehouse will reopen to the public on Saturday, November 21, with six new site-specific projects created by Miami-based artists. Donate to Bakehouse Art Complex here.
Similarly to Bakehouse Art Complex, the Bridge is a mixed-use space that caters to local artists' creative needs. The Allapattah building contains rehearsal space and a fully equipped recording studio for local musicians. It doubles as an event space, often hosting workshops for other local organizations such as Miami Girl's Rock Camp and Guitars Over Guns.
The Bridge is still subsidizing rent for private rehearsal studio residencies on the property despite having closed to the general public, but owner Nicole Martinez says residents are struggling to make payments as they're all musicians who've lost their revenue streams during the pandemic. To ease the strain, the Bridge is allowing residents to rehearse and record in its large event facility at no extra cost.
We remain committed in our support even though our income streams have been completely interrupted," Martinez says. "We only hope that we can continue to do so." Donate to the Bridge Miami here.
Since its founding in 2013, Buskerfest has fostered community connection through public street performances and two annual events: Buskerfest and Make Music Miami. The latter event — typically involving pop-up performances around the city to mark the summer solstice — went fully online this year, with more than 60 free livestreams made available on Facebook. Five months later, with coronavirus cases continuing to climb, Buskerfest is unable to produce its namesake festival downtown.
"The nature of the event encourages groups to gather on the streets of downtown," explains Buskerfest cofounder Justin Trieger. "We don't feel like that's an appropriate thing to encourage right now."
He adds that the organization is looking into creative options for bringing live music back to Miami, such as staging impromptu sets on flatbed trucks around the city or activating vacant retail spaces on Flagler Street or Lincoln Road. Donate to Buskerfest here.
Community Arts & Culture
For 22 years, CAC founder Jose Elias has boosted the music of the African diaspora in Miami through the Afro Roots World Music Festival, which has hosted major international talents from its early days at Tobacco Road through to its more recent iterations at the North Beach Bandshell. The festival expanded beyond Miami in recent years, hosting performances as far north as Jupiter and as far south as Key West.
This year, CAC planned to further expand its reach within Miami-Dade, with events planned in Wynwood and Doral in addition to scheduled events in Monroe County. COVID canceled most of those, resulting in the loss of more than $20,000 in revenue and a Tourist Development Council grant that Elias says would have garnered somewhere between $5,000 and $15,000 for the cultural organization. Donate to Community Arts & Culture here.
Coral Gables Art Cinema
The film industry has been hit particularly hard by coronavirus closures. And if major theater chains are suffering, the struggle is exponentially harder for independent arthouse theaters such as Coral Gables Art Cinema. The Aragon Avenue gem was forced to close for six months, resulting in $200,000 in lost revenue and the subsequent layoffs of 80 percent of the cinema's staff. Brenda Moe, Gables Cinema's co-executive director, says the public's generosity has already aided the initial stages of recovery.
"During the closure, we experienced an outpouring of support from the community and, as a result, had a 19 percent increase in paying members, brought more than half our staff back to work, and were able to reopen our doors in late September," Moe reports.
But the theater has a long way to go toward financial security.
"We have limited operations and continue to depend on the generosity of our community to provide essential funds to offset unprecedented losses," adds Moe.
Besides donating on Give Miami Day, locals can support the theater by renting new arthouse films and restored classics via its Virtual Screening Room. The theater will also host the 2020 Miami Children's Film Festival online for free December 28 through 30. Donate to Coral Gables Art Cinema here.
Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator
For 25 years, Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator (DVCAI) has worked with national and international art institutions to broaden the platforms of emerging artists of the Caribbean and Latin diasporas. Its co-curation of Inter | Sectionality: Diaspora Art from the Creole City, on display through January 2021 at Charlotte, North Carolina's Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, is one recent example. But DVCAI founder and president Rosie Gordon-Wallace says the coronavirus crisis resulted in canceled contracts and travel for prospective artists in residence.
"Many artists who are laid off from work face continued hardships during the pandemic," she says.
To that end, the organization partnered with Homestead farmers this summer to host Farm to Studios, a series of fruit and vegetable donations for local artists. Donate to Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator, Inc. here.
Miami has emerged as an untapped source of filmmaking talent in recent years, and it's precisely because of organizations like FilmGate Miami that the city stays in the national conversation. The nonprofit hosts workshops, script readings, and short film festivals for local writers, actors, and creators, but the pandemic put an end to most of those activities for three months earlier this year.
Activities resumed in July when FilmGate partnered with Pridelines and the Overtown Youth Center to select scholarship recipients for a reduced-capacity youth filmmaker boot camp. The organization also continues to host its namesake short film festival at a reduced cost via the virtual platform Eventive. Most impressively, the bulk of Sundance fellow Brittney Rae's recent short film, Water, was shot at FilmGate's studio under strict COVID safety guidelines.
Still, FilmGate executive director and founder Diliana Alexander says the organization needs the public's support after months of providing programming for free or at a reduced price.
"With extra funds," she says, "we would be able to support more fellows, give more scholarships to young adults, sustain our staff [including raising their rates], hire more needed staff to run all of our programs, [and] continue improving our studio so it can be the supportive hub for emerging creators we have always imagined." Donate to FilmGate Miami here.
"Miami's longest-running alternative art space" has served as much more than the average gallery over the past 22 years, offering everything from summer art programs for teens to grants for local artists and even pro bono legal services for local creatives. The latter became more important than ever after coronavirus shutdowns ravaged the art community. In response, Locust Projects launched its LegalARTLink webinar series to advise artists struggling with canceled contracts, commissions, and even evictions. Locust's Warhol Foundation-funded Miami Artist Relief Fund also provided $1,500 in emergency relief grants to 40 Miami artists, and the nonprofit is going forward with commissions and awarding grants — they recently announced $120,000 in WaveMaker incubator grants for Miami artists. Donate to Locust Projects here.
Oolite Arts has supported Miami's visual arts community for nearly 35 years, with services ranging from offering more than 200 art classes to free studio space for local artists. When shutdowns began, Oolite quickly took its workshops online.
"The transition was hard," says Oolite president and CEO Dennis Scholl, "but we’ve been able to reach so many more people in Miami and internationally with our virtual programming. Now we’re thinking about, once COVID ends, how we can use online programming to continue helping our community’s artists and expand our international presence."
In the interim term, the organization launched a $250,000 artist relief fund, created an acquisitions program to purchase works directly from artists, and created two commissioning programs for local filmmakers, including one which provided contributors with $2,500 to create a PSA encouraging people to wear masks to combat the spread of coronavirus. Donate to Oolite Arts here.
The Rhythm Foundation
The Rhythm Foundation has been going strong in Miami for more than three decades, so it's almost unsurprising that the nonprofit managed to keep the music playing against all odds in 2020. Though the organization was forced to cancel more than 30 performances this year, they pivoted to live streaming high-definition concerts quicker than most, resulting in more than 50,000 viewers tuning in to the virtual shows.
"Some of the multimedia platforms that we are developing during the COVID-19 closure will continue to grow as part of our future, even after we welcome the public back in for live music," says Rene Pereda, the Rhythm Foundation's director of strategic partnerships and communications.
Raising public funds will aid the organization in its ongoing digital pivot, along with the continued effort to upgrade its home base, the North Beach Bandshell. Donate to The Rhythm Foundation here.
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