Looking for a Valentine's Gift? Skip the Roses and Give Art.

While love is in the air, there's confusion about how to safely celebrate Valentine's Day. Why not support arts groups like Wonderbound?
While love is in the air, there's confusion about how to safely celebrate Valentine's Day. Why not support arts groups like Wonderbound? Amanda Tipton
How many more Whitman Samplers, oversized stuffies or stale sugar hearts can your relationship stand? Do you really need to give your sweetheart a dozen roses that wilt as businesses and arts groups around the city risk wilting faster?

The Colorado Business Committee for the Arts is encouraging Coloradans to add art to the Valentine's Day gift-giving mix: Buy your valentine a museum membership, tickets to virtual or safe in-person events or a new piece of art...or just make a donation in your boo's name.

While the CBCA's Arts Through It All campaign is upbeat, the times continue to be dire for many cultural organizations that have lost their ability to put on performances and keep their staffs employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while coronavirus numbers are currently dropping nationwide, uncertainty still plagues the cultural sector.

"We’re not out of the weeds yet," says CBCA Executive Director Christin Crampton Day. "But it’s also: Wow, we’ve had a lot to think about and figure out over the past year. I think a lot of organizations are looking to the future and putting plans in place for when they can reopen. We’re excited to get this [campaign] back out there."

This is the CBCA's third big push in its broader Arts Through It All campaign, which launched last April, weeks after the coronavirus shutdowns began. For months heading into the holidays, CBCA encouraged spending on cultural groups. And while the Valentine's Day campaign won't include massive billboards and TV and radio ads, as that one did, the group has already started underwriting Colorado Public Radio spots and is stretching its budget, funded by Denver Arts & Venues, PNC Bank and other sponsors, as far as it can.

The CBCA has also created ongoing online lists of ways people can support the arts, including emergency funds they can donate to, and virtual and limited in-person events they can attend. The group has also created an arts-and-culture tool kit so that cultural groups can take the campaign's branding and make it their own.

All of these efforts are helping to keep morale high and much-needed money coming into cultural groups, according to Crampton Day. "I think there’s more optimism in the air," she says. "At the same time, we have a lot to figure out still. It takes an investment for a lot of these organizations to figure out how to do things differently when they are able to reopen and have artists and musicians on their stages." That includes limiting capacity and making social distancing easier.

"These are venues that have to think about air filtration and PPE and all that stuff now," she continues. "It’s not going to be a 'flip the switch and the lights are back on at the theaters,' in my opinion. I think it’s going to be a phased return as groups and organizations figure out how to reach their audiences in new ways."

And so, with reopening costs mounting, Crampton Day wanted the CBCA to do what it could to encourage spending and donations on Valentine's Day that help keep the arts alive. "You can always give chocolate and flowers," she says. "Maybe this is a year you can support the arts, buy a membership, take an arts class or make a donation to an arts group you care about."

For more information about the CBCA campaign, visit the Arts Through It All website.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris