All local, all the time

This newspaper has spent a lot of time talking about the benefits of buying local products and keeping locally owned businesses afloat during these tough economic times. Still, it seems every time we load our browser, the news continues to worsen, not just for local businesses but also for the local people who support those businesses. For example, it was announced last week that sales of existing U.S. homes in December showed the biggest decline since existing-home-sales records began being kept in 1968.

It seems the various economic stimulus plans raised our hopes only to ignite our disillusion. But still there are bright spots. Many of us—particularly if the president’s initiatives to help the middle class family, outlined in his state of the union address, come to pass—expect to get a bigger tax return this year.

We know that times are desperate for everyone. But sometimes, people have to take the longer view, forgoing that new car or home add-on in favor of smaller improvements to quality of life. Let’s face it, the addition of new things to an economically stalled lifestyle can sometimes be a major reason to get up in the morning.

But some local businesses don’t really look like businesses, and it’s those we’re concerned with as we head into tax refund season. Here are some ideas for a little portion of that tax refund check.

No. 1: Support local artists. If there’s an economic sector that’s suffering, it’s art. Art, for most of us, is considered a luxury. We’re just as happy buying a poster-sized frame at a local frame shop to hang our child’s scribblings or even our own modest efforts. But local visual artists—who trickle down their money to local shops, restaurants and bars—do not consider art a luxury.

Not to be predatory, but these days, there are a lot of good deals to be had from artists who are just trying to stay afloat long enough for the economy to straighten out. A hundred bucks could buy an original work of art to brighten up your home and life—and it may make all the difference to a struggling artist. A flourishing arts community will make all the difference in the quality of life in Northern Nevada when things straighten out.

No. 2: Support those that support local artists. A few years ago, one of the biggest complaints from artists was that there is no gallery space in Reno. That has changed, and artist and entrepreneurs are making every business a potential gallery. But you’ll notice, it’s the local bars and restaurants and boutiques—not the chains—who are providing wall and stage space to local artists.

When you patronize the eateries, coffee shops or even hair salons that give space to local artists, let them know that you appreciate what they do for visual and performance artists. Spend a little money there, and tell them that you support people who support the local arts community.

Hey, we’re not trying to spend your tax return for you. We know that you’re suffering, too. We’re just saying that you’re going to make a choice as to what to do with some of it. Instead of dropping a yard in some chain restaurant, you could buy something that will endure and enrich your life even when times are tough.