by Hannah Benson
The leaves are falling, the air is colder and a plethora of cleverly titled days are approaching: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and in more recent years, #GivingTuesday. During the holiday season, we are bombarded with the message that giving is “the reason for the season.” Yet, consumer culture has created days dedicated to purchasing as many discounted products as possible. #GivingTuesday seeks to stay true to the message of the holidays. Organizations that participate in #GivingTuesday typically have a profile on givingtuesday.org.This allows for worldwide exposure , but also links those interested in donating to specific organizations’ websites. This global event, which started in 2012, reaches even to our local community. One organization who is using the #GivingTuesday platform is The Toledo Arts Commission. The Arts Commission has participated in the event from the start. Ryan Bunch, Performing and Literary Arts Coordinator for The Arts Commission, said the fundraising goal is focused towards The Young Artists at Work Program. “After you spend a bunch of money on your friends and loved ones, you can donate a little back to your community,” Bunch said. “I think it’s closer in spirit to the holiday season than going out and buying a new TV.” For 20 years, The Arts Commission has run The Young Artists at Work Program (YAAW), a six-week summer employment opportunity that lets youth socialize and interact with children in their own age group. According to the Arts Commission’s website, the program “enables diverse and diverse youth to benefit from an intense exposure to the arts.” This program makes The Arts Commission the largest employer of youth in Toledo during the summer. Bunch said that donating to YAAW on #GivingTuesday through The Arts Commission Website is “invaluable.” “We’ve seen a number of kids over this 20-year period who have changed course in their lives,” Bunch said. Depending on the amount of funding available, 50-60 kids ranging from 14-18-years old are hired to learn job skills and complete creative projects in the community. This year, The Arts Commission is combining its #GivingTuesday campaign with its year-end campaign to reach a goal of $25,000. With the money raised, Bunch said they hope to hire an additional 15-20 kids in the summer. “We’re hoping #GivingTuesday will ramp up some additional PR for that . . . and help expose people to the mission and the goal,” he explained. While the program is very competitive, receiving over 200 applicants, Bunch encourages everyone to apply. He said they specifically hire a wide range of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and with different levels of artistic ability. The goal is not only to expose them to art, but to the experience of working with people from a variety of different backgrounds. “It’s not vital that they are interested in art,” Bunch said. “Some kids apply to the program because they want to be artists or they are artists. Some kids have never held a paintbrush before.” The Arts Commission is not the only local organization, which participates in #GivingTuesday. Bunch said the number grows each year. “The first year we participated we were one of only a couple local organizations that participated,” he said. “Last year it grew a lot of momentum and I would say the major 501c3’s around town participated and I think this year that will grow even more.” Anyone interested in participating in YAAW can contact The Arts Commission at any time at 419-254-2787, or visit TheArtsCommission.org.