As a non-profit foundation dedicated to championing the arts and to elevating artists who dedicate their lives to interpreting the world through a creative lens, Engaging the Senses Foundation wants to express our empathy for all of the losses and heartache that continue to climb during these difficult times.
Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education whose mission is to build recognition and support for the extraordinary and dynamic value of the arts has released a recent report detailing the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on America’s arts sector: “Since the first U.S. case was reported on January 20, 2020 cancellations and closings have taken place at thousands of arts organizations across the country, and two-thirds of the nation’s artists are now unemployed.”
The report recounts that nationally, financial losses to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations are an estimated $5.9 billion as of June 1, 2020. Of particular concern is the fact that “artists/creatives are among the most severely affected workers by the COVID-19 crisis. 62% have become fully unemployed and the average financial loss per artist/creative worker is $21,000, to date. Nationally, they expect to lose $50.6 billion in income in 2020.”
This is all happening at a time when for many of us, whether isolated at home or working in jobs that put us at risk, access to the arts has been a major form of solace. Art — whether literature, poetry, music, visual art, or music — binds us together in times of difficulty, helping to give us a common language and reference for our hopes and our fears while dealing with the short and long-term effects of loneliness, stress, and anxiety. The arts are a thread of clarity that enhances our everyday lives and forms a bridge of understanding between ourselves and others. Through the arts, especially in exigent times, we find ways to process and heal.
Poet and novelist Ben Okri, who witnessed the Nigerian civil war at first hand from the ghetto of Lagos, and whose beautiful lecture about the crucial role of art, especially during times of trial, is a clarion call to all of us to use our creativity to shape our ideals, has written: “It struck me that this is a time when we need art more than ever. We need art to remind us why life is worth living. We need art to reawaken our sense of the wonder of being, to remind us of our freedom, and to highlight the things in our cultures that enable us to withstand the dreaded visage of death.”
No individual, and no foundation, can fully address . the impact of this time in all our lives, nor solve the particularly severe form of crisis facing those who work in the arts. But, just as we continue to stress the need to wear masks and to observe social distance, and to encourage us all to continue, in gratitude, to turn to the arts for comfort, we also urge support for those who bring us this comfort. Donate directly to the arts and culture organizations and venues you value. Provide payments and tips to individual artists as they share their work on social media. Buy subscriptions, memberships, tickets, and gift cards from arts and cultural organizations. Give to an emergency relief fund for artists, performers, and creatives. And most importantly, urge Congress to increase NEA funding and to enact legislation that directly supports artists, such as the current request to expand and recapitalize the $130 billion surplus from the Paycheck Protection Program resources, to allow the arts and culture sector, including nonprofits and gig workers, to have an opportunity to apply for a second forgivable loan with the surplus funds.
If you’re a working artist who has been impacted by the coronavirus, here is a list of arts resources that may be of help. And in the midst of it all, if you’re having a difficult day, don’t forget mindfulness. Set aside time to take care of your body, mind, and spirit. Reach out to others, in person (with social distancing precautions), if at all possible. And remember: we see you, and offer you a debt of profound gratitude for the joy you bring to our lives