The recession is taking its toll on Ann Arbor’s arts and culture world, and local community foundations are picking up the slack. The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan ran a high-profile online matching funds drive. And the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation is helping the Ann Arbor Symphony, which has been hurting.

“Most of our sponsors have cut back significantly–corporate sponsorship and family sponsorship,” says Mary Steffek Blaske, executive director of the eighty-one-year-old orchestra, which ended last season with a $73,000 deficit.

Faced with the prospect of canceling one of this year’s family concerts to balance the books, Blaske turned to the AAACF. In the past, the thirty-six-year-old foundation didn’t support ongoing programming–but this year the situation was so dire it made an exception.

“We like to say we are the community’s savings account,” explains Phil D’Anieri, the foundation’s program director. “And like the family’s savings account, we should only be used for unusual expenses and for special, onetime projects, like braces or a new roof. This year, however, with the economy the way it is, some organizations needed dollars to keep some programs going.”

The foundation gave the symphony $20,000 for its family concert series. D’Anieri says the proposal was compelling “because the symphony plays a key part in the cultural life of the community, and the community highly values their family concerts.” The grant, says Blaske, “buys us the bridge funding to make sure these concerts go on while I’m out looking for funding for the next season.”

The AAACF is supporting human services, too–it also gave a total of more than $200,000 in operating grants to Ozone House, the Corner Health Center, and other local providers. But “we think arts and culture are key,” D’Anieri says. “We think for art’s sake, for the cultural atmosphere they help create in the community, for the talent they bring to the community, and for the boost to the economy they provide, the arts are really critical for us here.”

What does the future look like for the arts in Ann Arbor? “The state’s and the region’s economy is restructuring permanently, and it’s really going to shake up the arts organizations,” says D’Anieri. “When the general economy rebounds, these arts organizations will rebound, but everything will be smaller–permanently smaller.”