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Photo by Emilio Collavino

Miami Art Strong Hopes to Keep Everyone Engaged With the Arts

Although art and cultural institutions in Miami face incredible hardship, art itself remains alive and strong. The organizations behind Miami Art Strong want to focus on the good news by keeping the arts on everyone's mind and engaging local artists and art consumers through the #MiamiArtStrong social-media campaign.

Yes, these institutions are struggling — they're still businesses, after all. Ticket and admission revenues disappeared owing to the closure of venues and cancellation of events.

In its June survey of the pandemic's impact on local cultural institutions, Miami-Dade County's Department of Cultural Affairs reported that "the total financial impact of the business interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts in Miami-Dade County has reached a staggering $73.8 million with a total of 12,429 arts and cultural jobs affected." This is according to aggregate data from the March to June monthly survey combined with a survey of artists and gig workers conducted by the department.

Americans for the Arts conducted a similar survey and its report for Miami-Dade County includes data from 186 respondents. Ninety percent expect the overall financial impact on their organization to be severe. Sixty-two percent listed reduced philanthropic giving as a major financial concern, and 19 percent listed business closure.

But Miami Art Strong's message is clear: Miami's arts community remains both vibrant and valuable.

“The arts are even more important during this time,” says Kathleen Drohan, vice president of public relations for New World Symphony and spokesperson for Miami Art Strong. "They are helping us get through this moment by watching art or creating it. It's a pretty universal coping mechanism."

For its first initiative, last month the group launched #MiamiArtStrong as an awareness-building campaign. The hashtag opens a digital space where organizations can engage with their audiences, and local artists — whether professional, amateur, or recreational — can show off their work to a supportive art community.

“We wanted to create a campaign to highlight and showcase how the arts are still here and still strong,” Drohan says, adding that the hashtag "encourages everyone to show how they're using the arts."

When it launched, paintings, drawings, music, poetry, and all manner of self-expression were tagged. Drohan, who has only been in Miami since relocating from New York City to take on her role at NWS in January, says it has been incredible to watch and truly shows the breadth of what's out there.

Miami Art Strong members are starting the conversation about the next phase for the project and how to move forward. It will not turn into a fundraising campaign, as each organization is a distinct 501(c)3 and has its own budget, funding streams, and revenue goals it must meet. Participating institutions include the Adrienne Arsht Center, Bakehouse Art Complex, the Bass, Coral Gables Art Cinema, Locust Projects, Miami New Drama, Oolite Arts, and the Wolfsonian-FIU.

No matter what happens in the next months, Drohan says the need for mutual support won’t end.

“There will be a time when we’re post-pandemic, and as a group, we want to continue to support each other,” she says. As someone who didn’t have a community of colleagues when she moved down here, it has been beneficial to get connected and see the creativity of Miami's arts scene.

The collective came about when Drohan and colleagues from some of the major Miami art players started meeting online every other week to talk shop, ask questions, and support one another. Representing widely different organizations, they faced similar challenges. The group grew organically through personal connections and officially coalesced into Miami Art Strong, which now includes 60 local organizations.

As the next steps are determined and venues remain closed, #MiamiArtStrong will continue to be a hub for Miami arts and culture. Drohan encourages using the hashtag as much as possible to create and share art, engage with it, and participate in what organizations and artists are offering virtually. If you are able, you can also donate to your favorite one.

As long as people feel the need to express themselves and create, art will never cease. But as local art institutions contend with financial shortfalls and tough business decisions, Miami Art Strong can act as their biggest cheerleader.

Says Drohan: "We are truly stronger together to support each other."

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