This year AMT Theater had our first Giving Tuesday campaign to raise money for our New Work Development Program. We raised $2,680, which is fantastic and I am so grateful to everyone who donated money, time, shared our campaign, liked our posts or spread the word. Thank you!
One thing that came to my attention was that many people decided not to donate to theaters or the arts, but chose instead to give to charities involved with health care/education/homelessness etc. Their reasoning was that theaters are not proper charities. Now, I have worked in the education and homelessness sectors and I have had family members who benefited greatly from healthcare charities, so I strongly believe in supporting these sectors. However, you are not spreading yourself too thin if you choose to give slightly less to these sectors and give something to the arts. There is so much value in the arts and we use the money given to us to help people in so many ways.
Humans have always needed the arts, when people were sitting around fires for warmth and protection there was no inherent need for storytelling, but it arose because humans want to be entertained and create stories. When people wanted to talk to the ancestors there was no need for dances to accompany this and yet it almost always does because the act of talking was not the only reason to ask for this ceremony, people wanted a reason to be together and move. In essence, humans need communal acts and want to be entertained. Theater and the arts offer a space for community, a place to gather and share a common experience, a time to suspend your disbelief and be transported out of your life and into someone else's imagination. This communal experience brings us together and gives us the space to escape even if it's just for 90 minutes.
The pandemic really brought this home for many people, we were suddenly isolated from everyone and the smallest interaction became golden because it was an escape from the fear of what might happen. I know I watched a ton of movies and tv shows, I needed to escape the overwhelming worry that I had for my family on another continent and that had never seemed further away than when we were absolutely not allowed to see each other in person. I missed going to watch shows or see galleries, I missed this deep inside myself, it was perhaps especially hard for me as a performer.
So, this is why I believe the arts have such value and are worthy recipients of donations. A leading cause of illness and mental health issues is isolation, if more people had community spaces to go to they would feel happier and stronger. Please don't get me wrong, there are many complex causes for mental health issues and illness, but I firmly believe there would be less health crises if people felt less desperately alone. We are a communal species and we simply love to be entertained, we need to be given spaces to escape from reality, especially live theater spaces where we share the experience with others. Shared experiences broaden our horizans and our potential to make friends and relationships. It is this social good that we create that I urge you to consider when pondering if the arts are worthy causes in the future.
I could honestly write a book about this, I did actually write my masters thesis partly on how amaXhosa traditional dance in South Africa helped us transition out of apartheid by illuminating amaXhosa traditions for outsiders. By being able to see other forms of dancing and different ways of life South Africans were given the opportunity to understand each other more, which helped with healing some of the traumas of our divided past. The arts have the potential to forge relationships and deepen understanding of differences, they illuminate areas otherwise unknown to us and make us better for it.
On this note, we have decided to keep our Giving Tuesday campaign donation page open until the end of this year...think of it as a festive gift for all the writers out there dreaming up new ways to entertain you.