The Arts

East End Arts’ successful “Give It Up For The Arts” means the nonprofit doesn’t have to give up

What would you give up to support the arts in your community?

The downtown Riverhead-based arts nonprofit East End Arts launched a 90-day “Give It Up For The Arts” challenge on Oct. 1. The organization asked its supporters to donate $10 so it could keep the lights on by giving up one small, often routine, expense, such as a coffee run or a meal out.

“We have about 9500 people on our email list, and we figured if everyone gave us 10 bucks, we’d make our challenge,” Diane Burke, EEA’s executive director, said. “So we didn’t think it was unreasonable to say in 90 days, we should be able to raise $90,000.”

Ms. Burke said these donors raised over half of the arts nonprofit’s $90,000 goal. However, another donor who pledged to match the total collected at the end of the 90 days, whom she kept anonymous, catapulted the fundraiser to success.

“[As for] why he said it was important to donate to East End Arts is because of all the work we’ve done over the past five years to bring a whole new package to the community,” Ms. Burke said. “Our campaign has been to put community first and connect creativity with the community. He thinks that’s not only important, but necessary. His motto is ‘we can’t forget to feed our soul.’”

After having to postpone its annual ARTWorks Gala, its biggest fundraiser of the year, from the fall to this spring, the downtown-Riverhead based arts nonprofit devised the grassroots fundraiser to make up for lost time. As Ms. Burke explained, the organization which offers arts and music education to adults and children and hosts art exhibitions and talks could not go without reaping undesignated funds, meaning those it does not receive earmarked for scholarships or specific initiatives.

“Between our grants and our fundraising, if we don’t raise $600,000 a year, we cease to exist,” Ms. Burke said. “And that’s us operating on a shoestring budget … This is us being super careful, keeping our salaries as low as possible while retaining really good talent.”

With the nonprofit maintaining its financial health, its supporters and community can look forward to two recurring January traditions it kicks off each year. The Martin Luther King Jr. portrait auction, which sees students from various high schools Long Island create pieces of a mosaic to form portraits of a Civil Rights leaders, begins on the holiday established in his honor, which this year falls on Jan. 15. Anyone interested in viewing and bidding on the students’ work may view the virtual gallery, which opens Jan. 15. The arts group’s annual Elizabeth Richard Memorial Members’ Show, a chance for all of its members to display work, opens on Jan. 26 at East End Art’s Riverhead galleries, located at 133 East Main Street and 11 West Main Street, as well as a satellite gallery at the M&T Bank in Westhampton Beach, located at 133 Main Street. This year’s exhibition, adhering to the theme “well read,” which according to the nonprofit’s website, invites artists to “creatively depict the varied significance of the color red in practical use, culture, history, feeling, message or symbolism” will remain on display until March 1.

This year, the organization is also launching a college preparation program for high school students considering attending school for music. Similar to its program that prepares youngsters for art school, the program will guide them through establish a portfolio, preparing for auditions and other keys to success for gaining admission to top music schools, as well as aural training and other pathways to success in the AP Music Theory course. Among those who will help the students is an alumnus of Boston’s Berklee College of Music Chris Jones, East End Art’s recording studio manager, who in addition to helming recording sessions, recently launched the arts nonprofit’s podcast.

“It’s never too early for somebody who thinks they want to pursue the arts in any of its forms to start to get ready for college, because there’s a lot of prep work that goes into it,” Ms. Burke said. “So many kids that we run into are behind the 8-ball because they didn’t realize what it takes to get into your top art and music schools, and then they’re in panic mode in 11th grade. We’re starting out with this year with ninth graders, and they’re very serious about what their possibilities could be.”