The region’s creatives need your help. A recent survey from the Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego found the pandemic’s impacts have hit regional arts and culture nonprofits harder than any other sector. Forty-one percent are not operating at all. A growing number reported uncertainty about being able to make payroll in the coming weeks.

“We had to cancel the last two productions of the season and our annual fundraiser and we are not alone in experiencing this kind of an impact,” said San Diego Ballet Executive Director Matt Carney, who also serves as co-chair of the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition. “A lot of our earned income has stopped. Our school can only offer classes online, which brings in only a fraction of a live, drop-in class. Things have changed, which is different than things will change. Things have changed. My job had been producing shows and packing the house, but that’s over. I don’t know when we can expect to have an audience at a theatre again.”

Enter the San Diego Arts + Culture Challenge, a community initiative to help stabilize the creative sector, save jobs, and lessen financial losses due to COVID-19. Launched April 16 and housed at The San Diego Foundation, the Challenge was established by a group of arts, government, and philanthropy leaders who leveraged $1.25 million in initial funding from The San Diego Foundation and the City of San Diego and have set a goal of raising a total of $2 million.

The City of San Diego’s $1 million contribution is earmarked to purchase works by local artists, providing them with critical income; the $250,000 seeded by The San Diego Foundation and the Clare Rose Foundation will go toward immediate grantmaking.

Challenge Fund grants will range from $1,500 to $10,000 to nonprofit arts and culture organizations throughout the region, allowing them to retain their creative workers – both salaried and independent contractors and assist with overhead costs to keep the creative workforce employed.

Applications for the first round of grants for small and mid-sized organizations were being accepted through May 15. Subsequent phases will be determined by available funding.

“It is my dream that every philanthropist, arts enthusiast, and creative will show their devotion to our artistic community by helping spread the word and participate, even if it’s only $10,” said Jill Hall, chair of The San Diego Foundation’s Creative Catalyst Program that has been redirected to help fund the San Diego Arts + Culture Challenge. “When this crisis is over, San Diego’s arts and culture scene will come back even more connected and vibrant than ever.”

Much is at stake. San Diego’s nonprofit arts and culture sector supported 35,914 full-time equivalent jobs and generated $1.1 billion in total economic activity, according to a study by the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture in 2015, and has only grown since then.

“The artists and arts organizations that we all call upon to beautify our buildings, activate our spaces, and entertain our communities are now calling upon us,” said Lynnette Tessitore, co-chair of the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition. “This is an opportunity for us, as a community, to support and give back to those that we rely upon most in times of challenge.”

Indeed, the community of creatives has retained its optimism.

“We will get through this, we’re artists,” said Carney. “Our job is to find the beauty in things and to seek creative solutions. The arts are needed now more than ever. From the organizational side, I think we’ll see more collaborations and shared resources and from the philanthropic side, I think we’ll see more campaigns like the San Diego Arts + Culture Challenge, a countywide initiative with a specific impact: to keep creatives working.”

You can help keep the region’s creatives working by donating today.