Michigan arts groups losing money amid pandemic


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan arts groups are struggling to operate as people divert their donations to needed services during the pandemic, community leaders said.

“We are concerned about the arts,” said Laurie Baumer, executive vice president at Community Foundation. “People are shifting donations to human services, but there is a consequence. We can’t forget other nonprofits that are vital and are not getting attention with charitable dollars, such as the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters and others.”

Williamston Theatre is one nonprofit that relies on consistently large crowds.

“We had to cancel the remainder of our season,” Development Director Emily Sutton-Smith said. “Box office sales are 50% of our income. Donations, grants and sponsorships make up the remainder.”

The theater was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, a federal small business loan that allows businesses to pay staff, mortgage interest and utilities for eight weeks. But the theater won’t open any time soon.

The Lansing Symphony Orchestra also received a federal loan, and some donors have been giving more than usual to keep things up and running, according to executive director Courtney Millbrook.

Still, the nonprofit must make up for lost ticket sales, which is one-third of its $1 million operating budget.

“Usually music plays a large part in healing. It’s hard for us to not be part of the community,” Millbrook said.

Most nonprofits that provide services such as food and medical and mental health are doing fine, according to several industry leaders.

The Greater Lansing Food Bank has been helping people in need during the outbreak and has received a large number of donations.

“Due to the incredible generosity from members of our community, GLFB is grateful to currently not have to worry about revenues for the immediate crisis response,” Nalee Xiong, the marketing & communications specialist, said via email.

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