‘Creativity is always streaming’: New mini grants encourage local artists to share their work

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The character and spirit of a city is revealed through its artists. From the public art that adorns our buildings and underpasses, to the symphony that fills the glass walls of the Schuster Center, we are blessed to be surrounded by such a robust arts community here in the Miami Valley.

During this unprecedented shutdown, creatives of all types have found themselves out of work. Theaters where actors and dancers have been preparing for their next performance are now closed for the season. Art galleries have shut their doors and musicians are unable to tour. Those sudden closures prompted Jenna Valyn and Christopher Hahn, founders of the local theater group The Playground, to take action.

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The Playground Theatre will present two Intro to Acting and two Audition Success programs for teens at DML’s Huber Heights Branch. Submitted photo.
The Playground Theatre will present two Intro to Acting and two Audition Success programs for teens at DML’s Huber Heights Branch. Submitted photo.

Credit: Submitted photo

Credit: Submitted photo

“When the pandemic began, we saw the arts industry take a huge hit. Every theater production, music gig, or public performance in the city was canceled and we could feel that the collective morale was very low,” Valyn said in our interview. “As artists, being able to create and share our art with people is something we thrive on.”

They started to brainstorm how they could cultivate a platform for artists to perform and share their work with audiences while maintaining "social distance." They came up with the Dayton Art Stream, a Facebook page dedicated to sharing work from area creatives of all varieties, including songs, choreography, monologues and more. "Creativity is always streaming" has become their motto.

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“We feel like people need art now more than ever,” Valyn continued. “We may not be considered essential workers, but there is a reason the band on the Titanic kept playing. Now that we are all stuck at home, we are indulging in art more than ever through streaming services. Art is helping us get through this dark time.”

One of the other goals of the Facebook page is to help artists get paid for their work. Many of the participants include a link to their Venmo or Paypal accounts, so patrons can make donations.

Culture Works, the Miami Valley's primary arts advocacy organization, liked this idea so much, it decided to expand upon this concept by offering $150 mini grants to qualifying artists who participate in the Dayton Art Stream.

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“As we all turn to the arts for comfort, entertainment, and escape during this crisis, we need to remember that artists are professionals. Their livelihoods depend on income from shows, exhibitions, and other events that can’t happen right now,” Karen Maner, the grants manager at Culture Works explained.

“We hope these grants will encourage artists to continue creating while also communicating that we, as a community, value their work,” Maner continued. “This is a frightening, painful time for everyone, and we’re grateful to artists for helping us get through it.”

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The funding for this initiative comes from a restricted grant established to provide free performances for the public. In a typical year, Culture Works uses these funds to compensate artists for performing in workplaces as part of their Campaign for the Arts.

The grants will sponsor 30 virtual arts experiences. “If additional funding becomes available, we would love to create additional opportunities for local artists through this program,” Maner said.

To qualify for the sponsored video grant, the artist or performer must live or work within the eight-county Culture Works service area: Butler, Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Warren. They are to create a video of their original work, preferably 5 minutes or shorter in length and newly captured for this purpose. Selections will be made based on both content quality and video quality. Culture Works will pay $150 for each video selected for sponsorship, regardless of the number of participants or length of video. To review the full list of requirements, click here.

Valyn and Hahn were thrilled with the collaboration with Culture Works. “This is going to help us support artists in a way that we never thought possible by offering stipends to those artists who are eligible to receive them,” Valyn said. “We are so incredibly happy that artists in Dayton are being valued.”

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Culture Works is also hoping that by increasing awareness to this page and the participating artists, local patrons and audiences will broaden their horizons, too. “Looking ahead, we also hope that when the doors to arts venues open again, people who followed the Dayton Artist Stream page during quarantine will have a whole new list of artists to check out live,” Maner said.

To follow the Dayton Live Stream, visit the Facebook page.

For creatives who want to participate in the Dayton Live Stream and be considered for a mini-grant, submit your application here.

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