Since it first became evident that the coronavirus pandemic was going to hit North America hard, artists and art workers across the country have expressed a need for immediate and comprehensive financial support on a national level. Unlike other countries such as Germany, the United States has no clearly-outlined federal stimulus plan explicitly designed to support freelancing or self-employed creative workers as they cope with the pandemic. That’s why a coalition of seven arts grantmakers that includes Artadia, Creative Capital, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the MAP Fund, the National YoungArts Foundation, Academy of American Poets and United States Artists have decided to launch Artist Relief, a new initiative that has been funded to provide $5,000 relief grants to artists facing financial emergencies due to the fallout from COVID-19.
In order to apply for the grant, artists will just have to visit the initiative’s website and fill out a brief application outlining their needs. “The primary concern is: what are the acute needs?” Suzy Delvalle, president and executive director of Creative Capital, told Observer. “Specifically we’re talking about issues related to food, housing, medicine, childcare; it’s really about the most urgent cases. There’s a lottery system to make sure that we’re being as fair as we can be, and if you do not get [the grant] within the first month, you’re asked to apply again the second month.”
The initial launch fund includes $5 million in seed money from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and an additional $5 million matched by various participating foundations. Artist Relief anticipates being able to award 100 artists a week with $5,000 up until September 1. Plus, the Artist Relief effort will also include the COVID-19 Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, which was designed by Americans for the Arts and which will be used to better identify the needs of precarious American culture workers as the pandemic continues.
Some organizations, like the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, have committed to giving funds both to Artist Relief and to other initiatives in support of small arts businesses. “Art is essential to our psychic and emotional well-being, and as a driver of the economy,” Elizabeth Smith, the executive director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, said in a statement. “As we assess and consider all the implications of this epidemic on artists and the arts field, we know that it will be important to offer assistance throughout a period of long recovery. Our multi-year commitment to this relief effort will complement the Foundation’s support of its ongoing partnerships with arts organizations at the national level.”