A $10-million campaign to help artists in dire financial need during the coronavirus pandemic has been organized by seven national grant-making organizations that have banded together to create the Artist Relief Fund.

The fund, which launched Wednesday, is open to artists working across all disciplines. It provides money for immediate needs such as food, housing, medical costs and childcare. The initial goal is to give 100 artists each $5,000, and to repeat that process to new recipients every week, through Sept. 1. Organizers hope to raise more money to expand the program further.

“Artists are uniquely threatened,” said Carolyn Ramo, executive director of Artadia, which provides unrestricted merit-based grants to visual artists. “They are gig workers who often have no benefits and no labor rights.”

Along with Artadia, the grant-making organizations in the group are: the Academy of American Poets; Creative Capital, which provides awards to artists in dozens of disciplines; the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, which awards for innovation in performing and visual arts; the MAP Fund, supporting contemporary artists whose work challenges canon and convention; United States Artists, which provides unrestricted fellowships; and the National YoungArts Foundation, which identifies and supports the creative and professional development of youth in visual, literary and performing arts.

That all seven organizations work on a national level is crucial to the success and reach of the fund, said Ramo, adding that the group aims to work in tandem with regional relief funds to reach as many artists in need as possible.

“We are nimble in shifting course as the needs of the country and the artists change,” Ramo said.

The group, she said, has been working around the clock to raise money, hitting the $10-million mark in less than three weeks. It did so thanks to a $5-million matching donation from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that helped to elicit substantial donations from L.A.’s Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, among others.

Ramo said the organization will try to distribute unrestricted funds quickly across disciplines and geographies, paying close attention to vulnerable populations and keeping track of where virus hot spots are — and might soon move.

Applicants must demonstrate that they are professional artists via a website, professional CV or similar means, and they must submit an explanation with the specifics of their financial needs. The fund will use readers from its grant-making organizations to make sure that the process is as fair as possible. Artists who don’t qualify for a specific round of grants can apply for the next round. Priority is given to those demonstrating immediate, dire need.

The fund aims to get money to selected artists within a week of their application, which can be found at artistrelief.org.

The group is also maintaining an online database of resources to support the professional, social and mental well-being of artists. It will administer a survey, designed by research partner Americans for the Arts, to better understand the immediate and long-term needs of the community.

Jennifer Benka, president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets, said that when her organization began thinking of the best way to help during the coronavirus crisis, it found that a partnership made more sense than a solo effort.

“To come together with other leaders for the greater good has been uplifting in this moment when we’re all isolated in our own homes and the future of arts and cultural organizations, as well as the lives of individual artists and writers are in jeopardy,” Benka said. “We know there’s an emergency need among the people that we regularly serve, so we all decided to rally.”

Benka said that New York City alone has more than 50,000 working artists and that in the United States, the number surpasses 2.5 million.

“$10 million is an awesome number, but it’s not enough,” Benka said. “We will need much more funding than that. We very much hope that once the fund is public, more people will be inspired to contribute.”

She stressed that in this dark time, people are relying on artists and writers for solace and comfort more than ever. Traffic at poets.org, with its rich database of poems and poets, is up more than 30% since the coronavirus crisis erupted in the U.S., she said, and the number of subscribers to the site’s “Poem a Day” feature has doubled to 4,000.

“We are facing an unknown,” Benka said. “And all we can do in this moment is work as hard as we can to do what we can.”





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