Artist Relief cannot solve this alone, but we can be a bridge for artists, and an example for other funders. As we evolve over the coming months, we will also be focused on advocacy—not only within the private and nonprofit sectors, but also when it comes to public policy. At the heart of this is the need to elevate the vital role artists occupy in society, so that we continue to advocate for their labor and needs. Moreover, we must specifically elevate BIPOC artists—those who have been systemically and categorically underrepresented, underfunded, and underrecognized both in the arts and in culture at large. The unifying vision of supporting individual artists is amplified and strengthened when we work together.
When the NEA made the decision to stop funding individual artists, the message was clear: Artists in this country were not essential; the arts were peripheral. Myself and my colleagues have spent our careers showing this sentiment to be woefully misguided. One need look no further than the closed museum doors, its unlit galleries, and silent concert halls to imagine a society without artists. Soon, with the help of all of us, this will be another challenge that artists have surmounted. Until then, the COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented opportunity to radically rethink how we support our artists. Whether it’s through a donation to Artist Relief, spreading the word about grants and available resources, or advocating for artists in your community, together we can get to the other side.