Arts groups unite, seek and offer more funding and support

  • by Jim Provenzano
  • Tuesday May 19, 2020
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YBCA featured artist Cece Carpio
YBCA featured artist Cece Carpio

With so many arts organizations suffering amid the pandemic, many nonprofits are banding together to get more government support and online patronage, and offer it to artists and other nonprofits.

The Prism Foundation provides grants for projects and nonprofits that are positively impacting the Asian & Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ communities. Grants range from $1,000.00 to $5,000.00 and provide core funding to under-resourced and/or underrepresented local community organizations and projects. Their portfolio of grantees is equally as diverse as our scholarship recipients, spanning across gender identities, racial and ethnic communities, indigenous backgrounds, and more, as well as the nature of the project whether it be funding community events, films, ethnographic surveys, or training tools.

In response to the urgent needs of the Bay Area arts community, Southern Exposure is redirecting its 2020 Alternative Exposure funds to support local artists and arts groups who are in dire need of emergency support, with funds becoming available in early summer 2020. SoEx recognizes that artists are facing unforeseen and potentially catastrophic challenges right now due to canceled and postponed exhibitions, performances, and other gigs and day jobs due to COVID-19.

In partnership with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, SoEx will allocate a total of $60,000 to support Bay Area working artists in need. Sixty grants of $1,000 each will be made available to visual and multidisciplinary artists. Priority will be given to artists who are Black, Indigenous, POC, elder, LGBTQ+, disabled, immune-compromised, and immigrants. Funds may be used to cover any needed expenses. For more information about eligibility and how to apply, visit

The Artist Power Center  

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts announced the creation of the Artist Power Center, a digital platform and hotline to help artists and cultural workers navigate emergency relief and build towards recovery and regeneration. This long-term initiative features customized tools designed to eliminate the challenges of tracking funding opportunities and will serve as a space for artists to organize knowledge, share resources, and create connections that will strengthen the creative community across the United States.

Already facing structural vulnerabilities before the pandemic, artists are confronting severe financial and social impacts from the COVID crisis. Performances, exhibitions, and classes have been dramatically reduced, as have opportunities for artists working to support community development, public health, and other social services. An April 2020 survey by Americans for the Arts notes that 95% of artists have lost income as a result of the pandemic, while two-thirds face unemployment. Those sheltering alone face unprecedented social isolation and loss of access to peers and collaborators.
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Oakland assistance
The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, working with the City of Oakland as well as a host of partner funds, foundations, and individuals, announced this week that they have launched a relief fund with $625,000 for artists and culture workers living in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties with at least $300,000 dedicated specifically to residents of Oakland.

The East Bay/Oakland Relief Fund for Individuals in the Arts will make grants directly to artists, teaching artists, culture bearers, and nonprofit arts workers from historically underserved communities who are especially financially vulnerable due to the economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals may apply once for up to $2,000. Funds are unrestricted and can be used in any way that alleviates financial hardship.

"With this Relief Fund, we're investing directly in our most vulnerable artists and culture workers, who have been incredibly hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. "Arts and culture are woven into the fabric of Oakland. And the work of these culture placekeepers is needed more than ever to help us make sense of these difficult times. I'm grateful to this public/private partnership of funders who've stepped forward to support our diverse artistic communities."

The Center for Cultural Innovation shares Emergency Resources for Artists and Freelancers  

Mayoral plea
On a national scale, mayors from cities across the nation, sent a joint letter to Congress in support of funding for the arts and culture sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter was supported by San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed and spearheaded by the San Francisco Arts Alliance, an alliance of arts organizations working with the San Francisco arts and culture sector to ensure community arts needs are met on a federal, state and local level.

The mayoral letter lays out specific relief efforts that will be essential in local, state, and national recovery efforts, including extending the duration of unemployment insurance for artists, arts professionals, and self-employed workers whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

The request asks for extending SBA and Paycheck Protection Program assistance for artists and arts professionals and providing additional forgivable SBA loans to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, self-employed workers, sole proprietors, small LLCs, and eliminate the 500-employee cap for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations; and adjusting the Economic Stabilization Fund or other mechanisms to implement programs to support nonprofit employers with between 500 and 10,000 employees, including loan-forgiveness and other provisions.

"The arts and culture sector exists to serve the creativity of the community and is an essential vehicle for healing and the equitable and sustainable redevelopment of cities across the nation," said Deborah Cullinan, co-chair of the San Francisco Arts Alliance and CEO of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. "As we evolve the ways we produce and bring audiences together, it is only by working hand-in-hand with the support of our government on the federal, state, and local level that we will be able to provide creative homes for artists and centers for community engagement."

Included in the letter were statistics proving the importance of sustaining the arts.

The arts sector is an economic engine that directly employs more than five million workers. In March 2020, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the arts and culture workforce contributed $877.8 billion, or 4.5 percent, to the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017.

The current losses sustained by the arts and cultural sector throughout the nation have reached a staggering $4.8 billion in just the first two months of this crisis.

Also on a national scale, The National Arts Drive hope to celebrate the arts in a simultaneous event on Saturday, June 6, 2020. During a three-hour period, across 10 major US cities, artists are asked to showcase or perform from windows, balconies, driveways, front yards, workspaces, or even a borrowed commercial space, where applicable and safe. The goal is to visually blanket the country in creative expression.

Said Kiana Brow, the Western representative for RAW Artists, "This project is our response to the fact that 64% of artists and creative workers are currently unemployed due to the crisis*. Opportunities for artists to be seen, heard, and supported through events, tours, or showcases have been made impossible, almost overnight. Artists are really feeling the impact from all angles.

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