Arts & Culture News

Small Ways You Can Help Sustain the Dallas Arts Scene During This Crisis

You don't have to make a Mark Cuban-sized donation to make an impact.
You don't have to make a Mark Cuban-sized donation to make an impact. Kat Yukawa / Unsplash
Artists, small businesses and cultural institutions are all suffering the effects of the pandemic shutdowns, and while you may not be in a position to make a big baller donation, there are small ways you can contribute so that the Dallas we know and love is still standing when the virus isn’t.

There is no higher praise, it seems, than being called a "benefactor" or "patron" of the arts — it makes your otherwise stingy self feel like a noble, charitable intellectual, essential to supporting the community. Charity isn’t just a good way to ensure that the city's arts survive the pandemic, but it’s a proven way to make ourselves feel better. As it turns out, doing good unto others reduces depression. So get your patroning on.

Save institutions like the Dallas Opera
Cancellations of the remaining season's shows have resulted in a reported revenue loss of $1.6 million in ticket sales for the Dallas Opera, according to general director and CEO Ian Derrer. Contractors, performers and other forms of staff at the longstanding institution have suffered remarkable losses in salary cuts and furloughs.

While the opera is a glitzy tradition that most of us only indulge in once every decade on the occasion of a fancy Mother Day’s celebration, the existence of such an institution has made Dallas history that much richer. The Dallas Opera was founded in 1957 with a performance by one of the biggest names in opera, Maria Callas. It’s where Placido Domingo made his debut in the U.S. as well as director Franco Zeffirelli.

“What can people do? Lots,” Derrer told us via email. “They can follow The Dallas Opera on social media channels — watch, like and share a host of engaging TDO Network programs on Facebook and Instagram, or view them at their convenience on our YouTube channel. Original programming runs the gamut from intimate recitals to artists-interviewing-artists in our mission to make opera available and easily accessible to all.

“Like every arts organization, we hope that people will back The Dallas Opera by purchasing subscriptions for next season and considering us when making charitable donations. Every show of support is meaningful and valuable. During this crisis, it’s just as important to raise awareness as it is to raise funds.”

Support artists directly
Artists are some of the most affected groups in the current economic crisis. With live venues closed, musicians are making a living teaching lessons via FaceTime and performing online, and you can help by tuning in and fattening up their virtual tip jars and buying merch from their websites.

One thing we’ve all surely realized at this point, after staring at our own sad walls for weeks, is just how much art is lacking in our homes. Order a painting or custom work of art from a local artist (most will respond to serious online inquiries) or pay for a photography session and set a date so you’ll have something to look forward to. One Dallas wedding photographer, Melissa Claire Photography, is taking clients' photos on their own iPhones, via FaceTime portrait sessions. Check in with your performer friends of all kinds: Comedians, actors and theater workers are all affected, many have personal GoFundMe pages and some are selling baked goods. Ask how they're getting by.

Support artists through donations

Many legitimate organizations have sprouted in recent weeks to help artists in need. gives $250 in funds to creatives, culinary and service industry workers. The Dallas Artist Relief Fund, created by Dallas poet Darryl Ratcliff, aids artists in increments of $200. So far, the group has awarded 44 grants, raised over $9,000 from 111 donors, and has received more than 250 applications from artists in need.

Support art galleries and museums

All major art museums have quickly adapted to a virtual reality and are offering stellar online content. The Dallas Museum of Art is actively keeping patrons engaged by asking them to submit audio clips for an installation by Yuri Suzuki, who's collecting the domestic sounds of the pandemic. Ginger Cochran, the founder and director of Envision Art, says that smaller galleries make most of their sales during opening night, so the shutdown means fewer sales for artists but also poses the risk that galleries won't survive the next few months without patrons. Most local galleries are displaying their collections online.  
Buy masks from local artists
You need masks because you don’t want to transmit COVID-19, and local artists and designers are making much better masks than that bandit-looking bandanna you keep tying around your face as it falls off every five minutes. Teddy Waggy makes bright masks with lips, while designer Charles Smith II's Do Not Touch masks aren’t only chic, but send an unequivocal message. Emily Cain is selling Met Gala-fashionable Our Lady of Guadalupe masks, and for every mask bought, she donates two. Kendall McCrae's designs are also so offbeat you’ll want to keep wearing them after the pandemic is over.

Shop like it's 1972 and order vinyl and books

One silver lining of the present era is that we have more time at home to enjoy the simple things, like the experience of sitting down to enjoy an album instead of playing it through Spotify while we’re on an angry commute on our way to work. Record stores like Good Records offer curbside pickup. Collecting vinyl is as sound an investment as silver, and with so many new releases out, now's a good time to stock up. Get a local album while you’re at it. Bookstores like the Wild Detectives are not only giving you an opportunity to travel through the written word, but they’ve also started a new membership program for year-round discounts. There is something uniquely satisfying about owning physical proof of the things that bring you joy, and this is a time to collect as many reminders as we can get.

Find a worthy nonprofit
There’s a considerable number of nonprofits trying their best to serve the community during a time of high demand, and they need as much help as they can get. Food pantries, women’s shelters and other organizations could use your donations. For Oak Cliff is an organization that seeks to benefit the southern Dallas community, while two Denton nonprofits focus on helping musicians. Whatever your cause, there's a group helping.

Spread morale
Nine-year-old Cooper Kimosh is collecting thank you notes for doctors and nurses. Cooper’s goal is to collect 1,000 notes to keep medical workers “happy and well.” You can drop off your notes, cards and letters at The Rustic (in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio), and they will deliver them to local hospitals.

Watch local theater and venues' online shows
Venues, theaters and film festivals in North Texas are making content available for a small fee or donation, or for free. Watch plays, visit exhibitions, explore a museum without crowds and watch the ballet without having to dress up.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Eva Raggio is the Dallas Observer's music and arts editor, a job she took after several years of writing about local culture and music for the paper. Eva supports the arts by rarely asking to be put on "the list" and always replies to emails, unless the word "pimp" makes up part of the artist's name.
Contact: Eva Raggio