Easthampton City Arts hands out $500 grants to 20 artists

  • Diana Alvarez Photo by Jess Atkins-Barber/ Courtesy of Alvarez

  • Diana Alvarez is seen here performing at Luthier’s Co-op in Easthampton.  Photo courtesy of Alvarez

Staff Writer
Published: 9/13/2020 7:13:16 PM

Easthampton City Arts recently announced its second round of grants this year for artists in the Pioneer Valley being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, handing out $500 grants each to support 20 artistic projects. 

Pasqualina Azzarello, arts coordinator for Easthampton City Arts, said the organization turned to directly supporting artists in response to the widespread cancellation of events at the start of the pandemic. 

“We recognized the vulnerability of our artists and the economic impact that COVID is having on so many of our working artists,” she said. “Easthampton City Arts has a reserve fund. It was set aside years ago. Every year when we approve our organizational budget, we choose to protect those funds. This felt like an emergency of a great capacity.” 

The reserve fund — starting with $10,000 — was used to create the Artist Grants Initiative, Azzarello said. A total of 16 artists received $300 each in May during the first phase of the initiative.

“We saw ourselves as joining an ecosystem of many other organizations that are providing grants of varying sizes to working artists,” Azzarello said, adding that through a GoFundMe campaign, City Arts raised $5,000 and an additional $5,000 boosted the grants initiative funds via a matching donation from River Valley Cooperative. The second round of the grant program brings the total given to artists to almost $15,000. 

Recipients under the second phase of grants include Diana Alvarez for a musical performance that benefits Bridgesong Fund; Jason Montgomery for Ekphrasis Poetry Project; Julissa Rodriguez for an interactive public performance featuring percussion, dance, theater, poetry and spoken word; Kimaya Diggs for youth arts education and resource sharing; Pamela Means for a concert and CD release for her 10th album, “Live at Northfire”; Tony Silva and Michelle Marroquin for music, dance and performance of “Persephone’s Diary”; and a sculpture and public art installation by Vick Quezada. 

Alvarez, 36, of Holyoke is a singer and songwriter who was awarded grants under both phases of the program. Her Bridgesong Series is a virtual convening of artists of color to have conversations and performances online. 

“The goal is to manifest futures, meaning to envision our futures and seek collective thriving and liberation,” she said. 

Alvarez is planning a livestreamed musical performance in Easthampton to raise funds for the series. She believes Easthampton City Arts is setting a good example of supporting artists. 

“From my perspective, Pasqualina goes beyond funding an artist, but the depth of understanding an artist’s vision and wanting to really just go deeper and understand what is that we do. I think it’s crucial that we move forward to support artists right now because artists are our lifeblood. Art is the reason that we’re even able to make it through a scenario like this.” 

For more information about Easthampton City Arts and its grant series visit easthamptoncityarts.com

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@gazettenet.com. 

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