The campaign to raise aid for artists, creatives workers, organizations and businesses in the greater Ann Arbor area was initiated during the extended COVID-19 pandemic. It continues as an emergency fund for those in the arts + creative industries facing economic, health or social crises.
The aim is health and vitality for the sector. We'll get there by supporting each other and working together.
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
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
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. Gig artists are at constant economic risk: many do not have “day jobs” or health insurance and due to living month-by-month, have little in their savings accounts to manage even a small crises.
“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. It also means that the public have little, if any influence on our regions creative landscape. Creative Washtenaw Aid is assisting 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.
Creative Washtenaw Aid, started as an emergency fund during the COVID-19 pandemic, has morphed into an ongoing emergency fund for artists, creative workers, organizations and businesses in Washtenaw County
Funds raised are assisting artists and creatives who live, work or go to school and have businesses located in Washtenaw County.
We are asking those in our community who find value and enjoyment in local arts + creative programs to step up to help those in need who are not covered by public services and programs afforded to other sectors
“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, you will enable them 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.