Whatever an artist's gig is, it likely was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic's arrival in Colorado.
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Here are some ways for artists to get help during the pandemic:
• Artists may be eligible for unemployment benefits under the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Artists who also work as employees may qualify for regular unemployment benefits. To apply and to see who qualifies, view the eligibility worksheet at colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/ui/new-claimant.
• Here's a Google Docs list of Colorado artists and their skills, compiled to assist them in seeking employment. To view the list or add yourself to it, visit tinyurl.com/ArtistEmployment.
• The metro-area Scientific and Cultural Facilities District offers a list of resources for food and other assistance, as well as resources for organizations that need help. See scfd.org/resources.
To request funds from, or donate to, an artist relief fund, see the below items. Availability may change.
• The COVID-19 CO Creatives Relief Grant is a one-time payment to nonprofit arts organizations in Colorado with an annual operating budget of less than $1 million. Award amount is $4,000 to $8,500. Deadline to apply is 4 p.m. June 1. See tinyurl.com/creatives-relief-grant.
• The COVID-19 Arts and Culture Relief Fund, set up by the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and The Denver Foundation, will award grants of $5,000 to $50,000 per organization. Applications will open June 8 and close June 26. See bonfils-stantonfoundation.org/colorado-coronavirus.
• The Denver Actors Fund's Emergency Artist Relief program gives one-time stipends of $250 each to 140 qualified Colorado theater artists. See tinyurl.com/DEARfund.
• The Denver Metro Area Artist COVID-19 Relief Fund is giving priority to artists who are part of “historically marginalized groups,” its page says. It has paused the application process while awaiting more donations.
• Colorado Artist Relief Fund: As of April 8, the fund was temporarily closed due to the number of applications, according to its website. In the meantime, individuals, foundations and organizations can contribute to the fund by visiting redlineart.org/colorado-artist-relief-fund. If foundations or corporations are interested in partnering with the fund, they can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The fund is a partnership involving Denver Arts and Venues, a City of Denver agency.
See other resources at tinyurl.com/ColoradoArts and tinyurl.com/ColoradoArtsMore. See national grants at tinyurl.com/ColoradoArtsNational.
Any artist in Colorado can enter an Arvada Center call for submissions — for an exhibit called “Viral Influence” — for free. It aims to portray artists' thoughts on the pandemic and how they are responding to it. Submissions will be considered for inclusion in a physical exhibition at the center in 2021. See arvadacenter.org/galleries/art-submissions/viral-influence-call-for-entry for more.
Maybe they're waiters and waitresses. Maybe they drive for Lyft. Maybe they teach their own art classes.
“It's hard enough being an artist in general,” said Collin Parson, director of galleries and the curator at the Arvada Center, a nonprofit arts hub. He's seen festivals and classes get canceled that often serve as a financial lifeline for people like one of his colleagues, a ceramics instructor at the center.
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“A lot of artists piece together to make a life,” said Parson, a 37-year-old Lakewood resident who also works as a professional artist. He added: The fallout from COVID-19 has affected artists' livelihoods “as artists and as people.”
In mid-March, Colorado ordered bars and restaurants to stop dine-in service for 30 days. Theaters — including movie and performance venues and concert halls — also were among the businesses required to shutter. The state soon extended that shutdown, and it was still unclear as of mid-May when theaters could open back up. Bans on gatherings have made event cancellations of all kinds commonplace.
Amid the economic spiral, relief funds and other assistance for artists have come forward to ease the blow. In the case of Miners Alley Playhouse in downtown Golden, the city government and local organizations stepped up to support the theater, whose landlord provided a month of free rent, said Len Matheo, executive and artistic director at Miners Alley Playhouse.
The “small, mighty theater” prides itself on connecting people through the art of live shows, Matheo said. “People come together to have a theater experience, whether that makes them laugh, cry (or) think.”
Since Miners Alley shut its doors, its normal income streams dried up. Roughly $20,000 in donations since then have helped keep it afloat — its yearly budget is about $730,000 — and it also snagged a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan to help pay its handful of staff for two months.
But the roughly 100 actors, designers and other artists Miners Alley hires as contract workers in a typical year are having to navigate a more treacherous economic path.
“These actors are out of work. A lot of theater actors, their other job is in the restaurant business because of the flexibility of the hours,” Matheo said. Contract workers have had challenges accessing unemployment benefits because of conflicts caused by their other sources of income, Matheo added.
Pandemic unemployment assistance has worked out for Emily Tuckman, an artistic director and actor with the Boulder-based Misfits Theater Company.
“Right now, I have very little work,” said Tuckman, who lives in Boulder and whose company performs in Boulder and Denver. “Ordinarily, I tutor SAT and ACT prep, neither of which is happening right now. Additionally, I'm a teaching artist,” but schools are closed.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided pandemic unemployment assistance to those not ordinarily eligible for unemployment benefits, including gig workers— such as Lyft drivers — and the self-employed and contract workers, among others whose work was interrupted by COVID-19 in other ways. Tuckman is a self-employed artist.
Even with the welcome financial assistance, Tuckman, whose “entire identity stems from being able to act, produce and teach,” has struggled with the identity of being a stay-at-home mom, she said. Others are grappling with “the loneliness of solitude, and the unknown,” Tuckman said.
“It is so hard not to know when we will be safe and when society and the arts will come back,” Tuckman said. “I've gotten this message both from friends, and from fellow Misfits. We are all ready to get back out there and work emotionally and physically, but there's this huge wall in the form of a pandemic, and we all want to keep one another, and ourselves, safe.”
Still, Parson, the Arvada Center curator, wants to project a message of hope. He pointed to the center's call for submissions that any artist in Colorado can enter for free. It aims to portray artists' thoughts on the pandemic and how they are responding to it, Parson said. It's called “Viral Influence,” and submissions will be considered for inclusion in a physical exhibition at the center in 2021.
Some people who are artists but haven't had time for art in the bustle of everyday life may be able to work on art amid society's halt, Parson said.
Parson has seen unfamiliar names responding to the call for submissions — an exciting development for him. Some artists have “exploded with creativity” from reading the news, learning about the virus and simply being outdoors.
“I know a couple artists I've talked to who think this'll be a cultural renaissance, like (with) World War I or World War II,” Parson added.
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Tuckman also believes current challenges could strengthen the arts.
“I just think the Denver community is such a special community,” Tuckman said. “I really, truly, believe that we will get through this, and we will be stronger as an artistic community because of it."
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