Whatever comes of the novel coronavirus tumult, the economic crisis is happening now. The needs for arts workers — gigging artists, teachers, staffers at arts institutions — are piling up by the hour.
“Those workers are going to have really critical needs and really quickly,” said Kate Becker, creative economy strategist for King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I’m hearing from many, many musicians and artists who aren’t going to make rent on April 1.”
“This is what it looks like to live in a society without an adequate safety net,” David Armstrong, former artistic director of the 5th Avenue Theatre, said. “We’re going to need big ideas.”
What can you do right now to support arts workers?
Whether you’re looking to help or looking for help, the Folklife Festival has posted a spreadsheet of information and links to resources: nwfolklife.org/covid19resourcelist.
This list includes individual fundraising efforts you can either apply or donate to (like the GoFundMe for artists spearheaded by local author Ijeoma Oluo which, as of this writing, had raised over $100,000) as well as institutional initiatives (such as the Seattle Foundation’s which, also as of this writing, had collected $9.2 million from individuals, corporations and foundations). It also lists volunteer networks (the Mutual Aid Solidarity Network) and the city’s Small Business Support Fund.
If you are an artist, Becker said, keep track of your financial losses from canceled gigs or other setbacks. Whatever relief packages emerge from this situation, documentation of your hardships will come in handy.
If you want to support artists, be generous. Don’t ask for refunds if you bought tickets for a canceled show; rather, tell the venue you consider it a donation. Consider donating, either to one of the organizations on the list at Folklife’s site, or to artists directly — it doesn’t have to be much.
“If 200 people donated the cost of one ticket right now, that would really help,” said Charly McCreary, co-founder of aerial dance group The Cabiri, which has watched its revenue dry up in the past few weeks, even before social-distancing mandates from the state and county effectively shut down the arts and culture sector.
Billy and Piper O’Neill of Glass Eye Studio are also marshaling a team of volunteer glassblowers to make 1,000 votives, sell them for $100 each, and donate the proceeds to the state nonprofit Artist Trust.
“We want to motivate others to do something to help groups they care about whether it’s homeless or people in the food and beverage industry,” he said. “I hope this will inspire others to lean forward and not retreat.”
If you’re a landlord, said musician and organizer Eric Padget, consider going easy on your artist-tenants on April 1. “Check in with artist friends and see what their basic-need budget deficits are and provide them with liquid support at the moment,” he said. “Direct support is best.”
Becker, with King County, concurred. “Donate to Patreon and livestreaming events, help our artists who live on the edges,” she said. “Extreme times call for extreme measures. And be kind and compassionate!”
Amidst all the present-tense urgency, McCreary, of The Cabiri, is keeping an eye toward the future.
“When things calm down, show up!” she said. “Go to twice as many events as you normally would’ve. People are going to need help getting back on their feet.”