Editorial: Resilient artists to get needed boost

  • Jared Libby, a sound engineer, handles a show by John Paul White at The Parlor Room in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 4/14/2020 4:02:40 PM

The Pioneer Valley is a haven for arts and culture; few would argue that. So it’s no surprise that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting this resilient industry hard right now.

For at least a month, concerts, musicals, gallery events and festivals have either been postponed or canceled. The result has wiped out the cash, and in many cases, the livelihood, for performers, artists and others who make a living off their creativity.

The Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton, for example, has moved from late May to Aug. 1-2. It features more than 200 artists and artisans.

“Most of the artists we work with are independent artists and craftspeople,” Linda Post, one of the festival’s founders, told Gazette reporter Chris Goudreau earlier this month. “Their main way of making a living is at fairs all over the place. They travel around … They make work in their studio, but then they have to sell it someplace. So, it’s definitely been a real hardship for them. Their cash flow just came to this enormous stop.”

How bad is the economic bottom line for the 2020 cultural scene across the state? A weeklong survey conducted by the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) in late March found that 566 cultural organizations reported a loss of more than $55.7 million in revenue, while 595 individual artists and independent teaching artists, humanists and scientists reported a total of more than $2.89 million in lost personal income.

“The results were dire and demanded attention,” said Anita Walker, executive director of the MCC.

In addition to numerous state and regional resources that can be found online, the MCC recently announced two COVID-19 relief programs — the COVID-19 Relief Fund for Individuals and the Safe Harbors COVID-19 Initiative for Cultural Organizations — that should help individual artists and cultural organizations address these economic impacts.

The relief fund for individuals will provide 225 $1,000 grants to Massachusetts artists and teaching artists who have lost income because of cancellations and closures. The MCC defines artist broadly, saying it includes but is not limited to musicians and theater artists — including those who work on sound, lighting and costume design — photographers, puppeteers, crafts artists, painters, poets and authors, vocalists, folk and traditional artists, and dancers, among others.

Applicants must demonstrate at least $1,000 of lost income directly related to COVID-19 that is not eligible to be recouped through Massachusetts unemployment benefits. This could include lost revenue due to canceled jobs/gigs, classes, performances, exhibitions, shows, residencies; organizational closures and/or suspended operations; and lost sales, commissions, vendor fees from canceled markets, events, exhibitions and more.

The Safe Harbors initiative is designed to help cultural nonprofits in three ways — access COVID-19 assistance offered through the federal government, analyze their current financial challenges, and craft a plan to go forward. Mass Cultural Council is partnering with the Nonprofit Finance Fund to provide access to webinars and online resources.

Further details about both of these programs are online at massculturalcouncil.org/; the application deadline is April 22.

It’s a rough time for the Valley arts community right now, and the desire to get back to normal will be strong. That’s why Steve Sanderson, event producer for the Northampton Arts Council, wants to see people remain cautious and take care of one another. “I hope that what happens is that when people have to hunker down, they’ll come out in droves when the coast is clear … The arts are used to having things taken away from them — we’re a resilient bunch,” he said.

Here’s hoping this bunch bounces back when the time is right.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy