In sharp relief: Supporting artists through COVID-19

Rapper LaQuinn is one of the local artists who has received aid from the Charlottesville Emergency Relief Fund for Artists, set up to help artists who have lost gigs, gallery shows, and more due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Amy and Jackson Smith Rapper LaQuinn is one of the local artists who has received aid from the Charlottesville Emergency Relief Fund for Artists, set up to help artists who have lost gigs, gallery shows, and more due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Amy and Jackson Smith

In an effort to help artists facing financial hardship because of venue closures and event cancellations due to COVID-19, The Bridge PAI and New City Arts Initiative launched the Charlottesville Emergency Relief Fund for Artists on March 20. Artists can apply to receive up to $300; all they need to show is “proof of practice,” says Bridge Director Alan Goffinski. “Proof of a canceled gig, book tour, art show, etc.,” he adds. “The quality of the work will not be judged. We just need to see proof that artists are artists.”

Andrew Stronge requested funds to recoup a fraction of the contract work he lost due to the cancellation of various regional comic-cons. A graphic designer and screen printer who creates posters, shirts, hats, and more, he relies on those events for a significant chunk of his income. He used his relief fund allocation to buy groceries for himself and his wife, who is pregnant with their first child.

Rapper LaQuinn Gilmore (you’ve seen his posters) will use his allotment to stay afloat, even if it’s for a short time—his live gigs were canceled and in-studio recording sessions are not social-distancing friendly, so he can’t record new stuff to sell. And his restaurant job’s gone to boot. Even before the pandemic, he says he was struggling to find affordable housing for himself and his daughter.  

As of March 25, 61 artists had applied for $15,700 in funding, says New City Arts Executive Director Maureen Brondyke. The initial $10,000 raised has already been dispersed, and they hope donations will continue to come in to cover new requests.

“Many of these artists carefully plan from month to month, juggling [multiple] jobs on top of their creative practice in order to pay the bills,” says Brondyke about the need for immediate help. “We’re all acutely aware right now of how difficult it is to not connect with others in person, and artists are often the ones either on stage or behind the scenes creating these opportunities—at performances, at markets or fairs, in restaurants, at school, in galleries and theaters—work that often goes undervalued until it’s gone.”

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