After the coronavirus, will the show go on Dayton?

Those in the know in the world know Dayton as “the birthplace of aviation” despite what Kitty Hawk, N.C. has to say about the matter.

For the last time, the airplane was invented here!

Aviation and innovation are not bad things to be known for by any stretch of the imagination.

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But it was another Dayton gem that some in the know here turned to during the Great Recession of 2008 as a way to help correct the Gem City’s course.

Maybe you remember DaytonCREATE, the initiative based partly on author and urbanist Richard Florida’s creative-class theories.

It brought about FilmDayton and UpDayton, as well as a few creative groups that have since disbanded.

Essentially, the idea was to unite young professionals in this community and young creative people to build vibrancy and economic prosperity.

We can debate how successful the initiative was, but it is no wonder that Dayton turned to the arts back then to help shape the future.

Art is part of what makes Dayton so Dayton.

Throughout the city’s history, it has poured from garages in the form of funk, indie rock, country and soul music.

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• The Ohio Players

• The Breeders

• Guided by Voices

On and on.

It hangs on the walls of the Dayton Art Institute.

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• Andy Warhol’s “Russell Means” from the American Indian Series.

• Claude Monet’s “Waterlilies”

• Kehinde Wiley’s “The Honourable Augustus Keppel, Admiral of the Blue II.”

On and on.

You see it in the faces of the fire dancers who perform on Oregon District streets during First Fridays and other events, and those who use chalk to draw on the sidewalks.

Like many things that shine, Dayton’s arts community is not as strong as it may seem and warrants protection.

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It faced challenges in 2019 with the rest of the community as Dayton dealt with the impact of a mass shooting and 15 tornadoes.

Helping those in need meet basic needs trumps supporting creativity nearly every time for good reason, but fostering creativity remains important.

Evidence of our arts community’s fragile nature can be seen in a note circulating on Facebook signed by seven of the community’s largest arts organizations: Dayton Live (formerly the Victoria Theatre Association), Culture Works, the Dayton Art Institute, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, The Contemporary Dayton, and The Human Race Theatre Company.

The note, meant to explain the impact the coronavirus is having on arts organizations, reads in part:

Here in Dayton, the arts community is facing a crisis. The necessary cancellation of public gatherings has meant not only lost revenue, but has also dramatically slowed contributed income.

Like human and social service agencies, arts organizations are mission-driven — providing services thanks to support from generous grants and donations in addition to ticket sales and admissions.

Arts organizations across our region rely on a mix of revenue streams to fulfill their individual missions. Annual contributions, ticket sales, admission fees, grants, classes, performance fees, sponsorships, events and other fundraising avenues are all key to each operation. To keep ticket prices and entry fees affordable and to offer programs for students, artists and others, we rely on contributed income to fill the gap.

Facing an unprecedented time, we are watching that gap widen at an unprecedented rate.

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Dayton is blessed with an arts scene that offers more diversity, size and scope than most cities its size. There is no question that the arts add significantly to the quality of life here in the Miami Valley. Using the Americans for the Arts economic impact calculator the economic impact is estimated to be $214 million for the region.

At its essence the arts are about bringing people together to experience something beautiful, thought provoking, breathtaking and memorable.

We trust that, with the ingenuity and support of our community, the collective light of the arts won’t be dimmed due to this crisis, but will shine brighter after weathering this storm together.

The letter ends with a pitch to supporters to purchase memberships and make financial donations and a statement about Dayton’s strength through tough times.

"The show MUST go on. We're looking forward to seeing you again soon," the last lines of the note read.

Dayton, like the rest of the nation, is reopening.

Will our arts institutions be there to open with us, so that the shows that help make the community what it is can actually afford to go on?

Dayton MUST decide.

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