Easthampton opens grant initiatve program for artists

  • Raindrops fall into a puddle in front of the former Easthampton Town Hall on Main Street, April 13, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/11/2020 9:25:25 AM

EASTHAMPTON — Easthampton City Arts (ECA) will extend a lifeline to artists hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic with a grant program that’s also designed to spur online arts projects that will “engage others and inspire community” in the city.

The $10,000 project, called the Easthampton City Arts Artist Grants Initiative, will be rolled out in two phases. Phase 1 will initially award $300 each to 16 selected artists in exchange for creating virtual presentations or workshops, or public art, in a variety of mediums: music, poetry, visual arts and performance.

City Arts Coordinator Pasqualina Azzarello says ECA will provide additional support for artists to help them promote their events and reach out to the city for any additional needs in getting their projects off the ground.

In a phone interview, Azzarello said the program is a first for ECA, so the group is proceeding in stages to see how artists respond to it. And given that ECA is part of the city government — it’s a division of the Planning Department — ECA isn’t in a position simply to give money directly to specific artists or organizations, she said.

“We want to support artists and see what they can share with the larger community, however they choose to do that,” she said. It could be a musician streaming a house concert, she notes, or a visual artist creating chalk drawings on a city sidewalk.

“We know so many artists are struggling right now and can’t get their work out (to the public) the way they normally would,” Azzarello said. “This is one way we can help.”

Eligible artists for the initial grants include anyone who lives, works or has worked in Easthampton. That includes artists who, regardless of where they live, have shared their work in the city at some point and “engaged the public” through that work, according to ECA. Artists in particular financial need will be given priority for grants.

Azzarello says the grant program includes two other key components. For one, grantees will be given priority registration for webinars, hosted by MASS MoCA, that offer financial and business support for artists navigating the financial hurdles imposed by the pandemic (taking part in those webinars is optional).

In addition, ECA has started a GoFundMe page for a public campaign to aid artists directly. For every $300 raised through this platform, an additional artist will receive funding. If donors contribute $5,000, River Valley Co-op in Northampton has pledged to match that amount, Azzarello says.

The deadline for applying for a grant is May 22, and applicants will be notified of decisions by May 29; all applications will be reviewed by a 10-member board that includes Azzarello and nine members of ECA’s Coordinating Committee.

Grantees for Phase 1 of the program are expected to make their presentations this summer, and details of Phase 2 of the program will be announced in late July/early August. “We’ll use what emerges from this first part of the program to help guide us when we do the next round of grants,” said Azzarello.

To learn more about the grant initiative program, visit easthamptoncityarts.com/artists/eca-artist-relief-grants/.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.
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