89.1 WEMU

creative:impact - COVID-19 Hits Washtenaw’s Arts + Creative Community Fast And Hard

Mar 17, 2020

Estar Cohen & Maggie Haspacher
Credit Meg Rohrer

To help slow the spread of the virus, arts venues were first to cancel events and send artists home.  The ripple effect is devastating for the people and organizations in Washtenaw County that don’t have or qualify for emergency economic relief packages.  The Arts Alliance’s Deb Polich and WEMU’s David Fair discuss the need for creative aid on this week’s "creative:impact."


Deb Polich, President and CEO of the Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

COVID-19 is hitting Washtenaw’s arts + creative community fast and hard.

To help slow the spread of the virus, Arts + Cultural venues across the county and throughout the country have canceled prepaid events, reduced hours and even voluntarily suspended operations.

Now they are shuttered by executive order.

The pandemic has caused a crisis in the arts + creative sector.

Upfront expenses still need to be paid. In the best of times arts and cultural nonprofits struggle to meet their monthly obligations during this crisis. Like other businesses, they are doing their best to take care of staff and balance obligations. Without cash flow or reserves, every day their audience is kept away makes it more likely that they may never reopen their doors.

Gig artists - musicians, actors and event production teams who are hired and paid per engagement - lost gigs and pay without warning the moment when these local events were canceled. Gig artists do not qualify for unemployment, most do not have health insurance and do not have day jobs.

Emergency funds for artists and creative organizations - where?

No established emergency fund exists for individual artists and creatives or arts and cultural organizations in Washtenaw County. The greater Ann Arbor region claims to place a high value on these assets that add so much to its quality of life and place and contributes greatly to its economic vitality.

People in our community support arts and culture through personal philanthropy and we are grateful.

Public and foundation funding does not reflect community values. We have never had a local Arts Commission to offer a lifeline in the way other communities do. The COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis has made us more painfully aware of this than ever before-- when emergency support afforded by public investment is necessary to sustain the sector.

Enough. Now...it has to be now

Creative Washtenaw Aid 2020
Credit The Arts Alliance / a3arts.org

We must try something different to assist the arts + creative sector that is vital and valued but remains under-resourced and under-supported in times of prosperity and certainly in times of need.

The people in our community are stepping up to help those in need during this unprecedented moment in our history.  We are asking and hoping they will remember the artists and cultural organizations that are not covered by public services and programs afforded other sectors.

The Arts Alliance has established the Creative Washtenaw Aid 2020 fund to collect donations and extend assistance to the artists and creative organizations adversely impacted by COVID-19.

As funds are raised, assistance will be made available to artists and arts and cultural businesses adversely impacted by the virus.

Our aim is success. We'll get there by working together.  Please add your support. Then share this information widely.

Your good health and a swift end to this pandemic is our wish!

Articles of reference

For more information about Creative Washtenaw Aid 2020, contact info@a3arts.org or 734.213.2733

National Impact Survey for Arts & Creative sector underway

5 minute survey - The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on the Arts and Cultural Sector – Complete this survey! It will give advocates a strong foundation as we work to promote the inclusion of the arts and culture sector in any stimulus package options and other relief measures. Early next week, real-time access aggregated data will be available that can be manipulated to gain insights at the local level – important for state and local relief measures. Share this with your colleagues.

More information and resources on COVID-19

In other news and looking with hope beyond COVID-19:

Grant writing never looked so good!

MCACA FY2021 Grant Guidelines are available here. MCACA has also moved to a BRAND NEW grant portal, SmartSimple, and we're pretty excited about it! But this means that grantees will want to get started early so they can familiarize themselves with the portal and the new layout. SmartSimple registration instructions and SmartSimple Profile instructions are included along with the guidelines for each grant program.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu