Not long after George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election, Toni Morrison found herself overwhelmed with a gloom that left her pen parched. Her mind flat. Her novel paused.
In a moment that epitomizes her enduring relatability, she confided to a friend that she simply could not write. A morose writer’s block, directly linked to the direction the country was heading, paralyzed her mind in new ways. The friend did not respond with sympathy, but rather urged Toni to persist, yelling: “No! No, no, no! This is precisely the time when artists go to work—not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job!”
Toni swallowed her dear friend’s point and confessed that she later felt like a fool as she “recalled the artists who had done their work in gulags, prison cells, hospital beds; who did their work while hounded, exiled, reviled, pilloried. And those who were executed.”
We know that artists prevail through disaster. As you stumble and freeze in your own work, it is important that you give yourself space to mourn and do nothing. Then wipe your face and try to do something. Repeat this cycle as often as necessary. Not because the world needs you to create, but because you need you to create.
As we navigate this new normal, in which it is increasingly difficult to decide whether the sky is still or has already finished falling, remember that being isolated doesn’t equate to being alone or unsupported. Turn your back to the pandemic—and squint—until a glimpse of another future comes into view.
Carry Toni’s message with you: “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.” And see the below resources that exist to offer artists a little bit of salvation, when so much seems unsalvageable.
Resources for Artists
The below is a far leap from exhaustive. There are many other organizations offering funds to impacted artists. Review these lists from the Los Angeles Times and WomenArts and conduct your own searches, too.
- The National Endowment for the Arts maintains a growing list of COVID-19 Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations. It links to various relief funds and resource hubs.
- Poets & Writers maintains a sizable list of grants and funds called Resources for Writers in the Time of Coronavirus.
- A number of arts grantmakers have established Artist Relief, which offers grants to artists dealing with economic hardship as a result of COVID-19.
- New York Foundation for the Arts constantly updates their thorough Emergency Grants page. Note: the resources posted are not exclusive to NY.
- The Actors Fund is accepting emergency financial assistance applications from union and non-union entertainers and performers.
Support Individual Artists and Institutions
- Buy merchandise online. Consider purchasing from black creatives here or here. Black Art in America has more expansive suggestions.
- Hire artists to complete projects
- Attend (…and buy tickets for!) online performances, panels and exhibitions
- Resist the urge to ask for refunds for cancelled shows
- Think outside of the box. Is there a musician you could hire to perform some of your mother’s favorite jams via Zoom this Mother’s Day?
Show Support and Send Over That Green
If you’re in a position to elevate and contribute to the arts financially, some donation-worthy art organizations and initiatives are:
- National Black Arts
- Black Artists + Designers Guild
- Columbus Artists Relief Fund COVID-19
- Americans for the Arts
- Sweet Relief Musicians Fund
- Actors Fund
- PEN America’s Writers’ Emergency Fund
- Arts Midwest
Show Support Without Touching That Wallet
- Volunteer. Idealist.org has a robust listing of arts & music volunteer opportunities, many of which are remote.
- Write asking US Senators and/or Representatives to support the arts. Bring up your concerns at virtual town halls.
- Register to receive legislative updates related to the arts and state arts agencies.
- Sign an arts related petition. Change.org has plenty.
- Make art. Compliment art. Learn more about art. Encourage others to do the same.
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