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Coalition of US arts organisations launch ongoing relief fund for artists affected by coronavirus

With $10m in funding already, Artist Relief will offer individual $5,000 unrestricted grants through September

Amid lockdown, representatives from the seven grant-making arts organisations met on Zoom to create the Artist Relief coalition fund

Seven US arts organisations are banding together to launch the first national relief fund for artists affected by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The fund, titled Artist Relief, is offering unrestricted $5,000 grants on a rolling basis for the next six months to help thousands of artists across the US weather the economic fallout from the public health crisis.

The coalition—comprised of the Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), MAP Fund, National Young Arts Foundation and United States Artists (USA)—launches today having already raised $10m.

“In the face of a crisis of this scale, we needed to do something quickly and we are better able to do that working together,” says Carolyn Ramo, the executive director of Artadia, a grant-making organisation that offers annual unrestricted, merit-based financial awards to visual artists in numerous cities across the US.

According to a study published last year by the Office of Research & Analysis (ORA) at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA),there are 2.5 million working artists in the US. Ramo explains that artists are part of an extremely at-risk population when it comes to economic precarity, often dependent on event and exhibition commissions and freelance work, most of which has been cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic.

“They need immediate relief for basic, human things—medical needs, childcare, housing, food—in an amount that can stretch for at least a month or two,” Ramo says, adding that the Artist Relief grants are meant to supplement other local and regional relief funds and federal stimulus initiatives that have been introduced within the past several weeks as an unprecedented ten million Americans file for unemployment.

Professional artists living in all 50 states, US territories and Tribal Nations, working in any discipline, are eligible to apply so long as they can demonstrate financial need. Grantees will be selected weekly; funds will be dispersed within a fortnight once selections for that week are made. Certain weeks will be dedicated to granting to artists practicing certain disciplines.

The Artist Relief fund website will also include a list of advocacy and informational resources, building on Creative Capital’s recently launched resource repository, and host the Covid-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, designed by Americans for the Arts, to better identify and address the needs of artists moving forward after the pandemic eventually subsides.

“My hope is that major philanthropies will maybe shift more of their funds toward basic operational costs—as this crisis has proved, there is nothing is more important than that and, historically, that’s an area of funding less of interest to donors,” says Stacy Stark from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, an organisation founded by John Cage and Jasper Johns that offers both project-based and emergency grants to artists working in performance, dance, theatre and sound.

In the last three weeks since the grant-making organisations came together to brainstorm the initiative, they have raised $5m in initial contributions, which was 100% matched by seed funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“As artists confront these new fiscal realities, we are proud to support this vital effort to address artists’ urgent needs,” says Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation. “We call on others to join us in supporting artists so they may continue to be our lights, chroniclers and connectors throughout this crisis and beyond.”

Other donors to the Artist Relief fund include numerous prestigious art organisations thus far including the 7|G Foundation, Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, Amazon Literary Partnership, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Arison Arts Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, Ford Foundation, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Covid-19 Relief Effort, Jerome Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Kraus Family Foundation, LeRoy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation, Metabolic Studio, Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation, Richard Salomon Family Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the Sue Hostetler and Beau Wrigley Family Foundation, Teiger Foundation, the Wallace Foundation and The Willem de Kooning Foundation.

Tax-deductible donations can be made at artistrelief.org; 100% of the funds will be applied directly to aid. Donations can be made on the coalition’s website and fundraising will continue through September.

  • For an updated list of other relief funds and financial aid resources, please click here.