Artists and cultural institutions are facing the same economic strain as other industries because of COVID-19. But, while many companies allow employees to telework — and still get paid — there are very limited options for performers and artists to get paid when performances are canceled and venues shuttered.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday a new, multimillion-dollar fund made up of public and private money to help provide relief to the cultural sector. The Arts for Illinois Relief Fund is open to individual artists and non-profits. Individuals who can demonstrate economic hardship because of the pandemic can apply for a one-time grant of $1,500. Relief for nonprofits ranges from $6,000 to $30,000.
“This is for arts of all types,” said Mark Kelly, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). “This is poets; this is painters; this is lighting designers; it’s actors; it’s dancers.”
The department contributed $1 million to the fund and is helping with the administration. Kelly said one of the stated goals is to ensure the entire arts community is considered and included for relief.
“We have to ensure that artists of color are supported,” Kelly said. “We are giving priority to non-profits that have leadership that are artists of color or administrators of color,” he added.
By the numbers
City and state leaders were, in part, prompted by a statewide impact survey released last week by Arts Alliance Illinois, a member-based organization that advocates for arts resources and policies. Based on responses from nearly 300 organizations across the state, the survey estimated Illinois will lose more than $90 million in revenue from the COVID-19 closures.
“The nonprofit arts and culture sector in Illinois contributes at least $4 billion annually to the state’s economy,” said Claire Rice from Arts Alliance Illinois. “The impact of COVID-19 will have a long-term impact on the health of the industry and its economic role in the city and state.”The impact study estimated about 3,000 full-time jobs in the arts have been affected state-wide.
Artists have still been finding ways to create during the pandemic, whether that’s through online DJ sets, plays or dance parties.
Gov. Pritzker and his wife, MK, acknowledged those creative efforts and said in a statement: “The arts and cultural community have proven that despite devastation caused by COVID19, we can all come together to support each other and provide Illinoisans this incredible resource to experience so many different forms of art while at home.”