Whether you’re an artist or a lover of the arts, the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult in Savannah.
Numerous exhibitions, musical performances, and stage productions have been canceled or postponed. We’ve already lost at least two brick and mortar art spaces in Roots Up Gallery and The Studio School. The Jinx has closed its doors. Odd Lot Improv continues to perform online, but was forced to shutter their space above Savannah Coffee Roasters.
Moreover, the fine artists, actors, musicians, and comedians who plied their trades in these and other spaces around town haven’t been able express their passions in the same way as they were before. And it’s hard to make an art sale or sell a ticket to a show without gallery openings or performances.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the City of Savannah itself has resources for arts-based non-profit organizations that are looking to make a positive impact on our community in the form of the Arts and Cultural Enrichment (ACE) program, offered through the Department of Cultural Resources.
The program, which offers funding ranging from $7,000 to $100,000, "supports a range of programming that brings cultural experiences to diverse Savannah audiences." In the past this has included events like the Savannah Jazz Festival, as well as Savannah Book Festival’s "SBF@Schools" initiative, which brings authors into local elementary school classrooms.
"Savannah has a reputation as an ‘arts city’ and the many arts organizations in our city contribute to a culture that embraces creativity," the Department of Cultural Resources said in a statement. "The arts have a unique ability to serve as a forum in which people from all backgrounds can gather to enjoy a common interest."
One such organization that is near and dear to the hearts of many Savannahians is Loop It Up. The non-profit, whose motto is "Make Things & Be Nice," was founded in 2008 by Molly Lieberman as a knitting and crochet class for kids at the West Broad Street YMCA. These days, they serve over 5,000 children annually at locations all over the city.
"We have grown quite a bit…and we are at the point where we are in need of an investment of funds to help us sustain the large number of programs that we run," Lieberman said of her reasons for applying.
"City funding has the capacity to help organizations like ours reach all corners of the City, with opportunities for young people and families to participate in creative and educational programs in an ongoing way, rather than once in a while."
Specifically, Lieberman is hoping to fund Loop It Up’s "Looping Literacy Together" and their "Youth Yoga and Mindfulness Program," both of which are arts-based endeavors designed to allow students "to explore and express their own identity," she said.
"There’s a saying that a society should be measured by the well being of its children," said Lieberman. "We believe that the City of Savannah's intentional investment into our children is funding well spent."
Her use of the term "investment" is apropos, given the frequently under-recognized positive financial impact that the arts routinely have on the city of Savannah. While discussing the economic value of the arts and culture, the Department of Cultural Resources referenced a 2015 study conducted by Americans for the Arts which found "that event-related spending by these attendees totaled $101.1 million in the City of Savannah during fiscal year 2015, excluding the cost of event admissions.
"This is an impressive impact, but at least equally important is the role that the arts play in building community."
"Art is one of the voices that we have and essential in telling the story of Savannah," Lieberman said. "Art does not exist in isolation. It is completely connected to our community's ability to tell our own story and express what is happening, what has happened and what we need to happen in the future."
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