A few communities around the country have a kind of United Way for the arts, where people can contribute to a general fund that benefits multiple organizations. I have wondered from time to time if that kind of campaign would have been useful in Baltimore, especially when the Baltimore Opera Company was slipping toward the abyss, and also back in the early part of the decade when the Baltimore Symphony piled up deficits.
I don't know what the overall track record for such community funds is; one discouraging sign is what happened in Orlando, where the local opera company essentially folded last season, despite a united arts fund. But now comes word of a successful drive in Detroit, a city that hasn't exactly been a boom town of late. A remarkable $4.8 million was raised there last week in a burst of fundraising fervor that benefited 75 arts groups there, including the Detroit Symphony ($596,000). Given the economy, that's
pretty damn impressive. I gather from Mark Stryker's
in the Free Press that the online system for contributions wasn't exactly flawless, but it looks like it did the job well n the end.
I know that arts groups can be very turf-conscious, especially when it comes to harvesting prospective donors, so a campaign like this can be tricky. But there's something about the concept that seems awfully appealing to me. It's a way of reinforcing a message that can't be underlined enough -- the arts are good for everybody in the community and everybody who visits the community.
It may be worth looking at a united fund here, to drive home that point and offer people a chance to step up to the plate in a communal way.