The campaign to raise $aid for artists, creatives workers, organizations and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area adversely impacted by the extended COVID-19 pandemic.
Many aid grants made – so many more requests await.
“My worst case scenario could very well be homelessness and a severe financial set back.”
~ Independent adaptive dance instructor, Ypsilanti
"…feel the financial strain. There’s just no way to avoid a massive financial hit and also be responsible about social distancing and isolation."
~ Independent musician, Ypsilanti
As soon as the presence of COVID-19 was confirmed, the arts + creative sector was among the first to respond responsibly to help slow the spread of the virus in the greater Ann Arbor area. As early as March 6 2020, venues postponed prepaid events, reduced hours and suspended operations to flatten the curve.
Suddenly there was no ticket revenue to pay advance production costs. Individual artists and creatives lost gigs – and pay – without warning.
The greater Ann Arbor region places a high value on the arts + creative assets that add so much to its quality of life and place and economic vitality. These individuals, and for-profit and nonprofit businesses represent an industry that employs more than 6,400 people and generates $390 million in wages in Washtenaw County. The average age of local nonprofit arts + cultural organizations is 32 years – indicating longevity, service and loyalty to our community.
Yet, the arts and creative sector has no dedicated arts commission, corporate or private foundation. Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations are not eligible to apply for annual support from Washtenaw Coordinated Funding, Washtenaw United Way and most Small Business Administration programs.
Berkeley, California, Boulder, Colorado and Grand Rapids, Michigan, are among the communities that Ann Arbor SPARK, Destination Ann Arbor and local municipalities use to benchmark the greater Ann Arbor area. Unlike our region, the arts + creative sector in these communities are sustained by allocated millage, visitor, percent for art and other tax-based revenues. In addition, many have public, private or corporate foundations that add significant investment.
Local COVID-19 emergency funding, such as the United Way of Washtenaw County – COVID-19 Community Relief Fun, cuts out arts + creative nonprofits. Not one local arts organization that applied received funding from the Washtenaw County Small Business Relief fund. Reports of other funding denials continue to come in.
“Our programs are facing complete collapse, which would result in our inability to serve our community with music and art programs for at least six months.”
~ Riverfolk Music & Art, Manchester
“It’s my nightmare to have to cancel on working artists and musicians. An entire April tour was canceled, leaving four other full-time musicians out of work.”
~ Independent musician, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti
These chronically under-capitalized arts and cultural nonprofits struggle to meet their monthly obligations in the best of times. In a crisis, without cash flow or reserves, it is almost impossible to pay past due show expenses and monthly obligations while attempting to take care of employees.
Gig artists– musicians, actors and event production teams, etc. – are hired and paid per engagement. Their upfront and ongoing costs are significant, too. Even with the CAREs Act, most gig artists are still at great risk: many do not have “day jobs” or health insurance and having lived month-by-month, have little in their savings accounts.
“It’s like we’re invisible. Can’t anyone see that many of these organizations are at great risk of going under without an influx of support? Just weeks ago, businesses who were recruiting, commercial realtors who were selling and the tourism industry who was competing for visitors were touting the fantastic arts and cultural assets in our region. What will they promote when our arts landscape is more barren?”
~ Arts nonprofit business administrator, Ann Arbor
Private giving has sustained our area’s arts and creative sector over the years and we are grateful. Yet, it is not enough to stave off the permanent devastation to our arts and creative sector being caused by COVID-19 pandemic crisis. We have run out of time waiting for someone else to step up or rescue us. 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 unquestionably in times of need.
“We face seeing the end of a 90-year-old organization. We had been making great strides in fundraising and sponsorship prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but many of those funding sources are now slowing or stopping support in order to sustain their own businesses. This is a scary time, and while we know that theater is not an essential service, we firmly believe that art, in all its forms, is essential to a vibrant, thriving community.”
~ Executive director, nonprofit theater company, Ann Arbor
Creative Washtenaw Aid: A fund to extend assistance to the artists and creative organizations adversely impacted by COVID-19 and stave off the permanent devastation to the sector. Funds raised are assisting artists and creatives who live, work or go to school and have businesses located in Washtenaw County.
We are asking the people in our community who step up to help those in need to include the artists and cultural organizations who are not covered by public services and programs afforded to other sectors during this unprecedented moment in our history.
“The worst-case scenario is that we dry up our funds on the final two months of payroll and have nothing going forward.”
~ Dance company and arts education provider, serving Washtenaw County.
Please add your support to assist the organizations and people who are here for you year after year. With your help, once the green light is given, they will more readily return to the cultural gathering places across the greater Ann Arbor are to do what they do so remarkably: give of their art so that we may rejoice, renew, remember and reflect on our humanity as individuals and together as community.