It’s no secret that professional artists are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. The events where people pay to see them perform, or at which they sell many of their wares, have been on hold for weeks. And though their chances to make money are few and far between, a variety of bills still come due.
Last week, two prominent Columbia organizations announced efforts to help. With $100,000 ushered to it from the Knight Foundation by the Central Carolina Community Foundation, One Columbia for Arts and Culture will administer an Artist Emergency Fund, distributing $2,500 grants to 40 local artists. And the 701 Center for Contemporary Art has started an adjusted version of its Artist-in-Residence program, allowing an artist to shelter in place at the organization’s live-work loft apartment while creating new work.
The application period for One Columbia’s artist fund runs from May 8 to 22, which Executive Director Lee Snelgrove hopes will allow the City of Columbia-backed nonprofit to turn around checks quickly enough to help recipients with pressing expenses.
“We are very conscious of the fact that by that point we’re rolling into a potential third month of rent or mortgage being due,” he says. “We’re very conscious of that. Obviously other bills come due around the beginning of the month. So we wanted to move as quickly as we possibly could, to review [applications] thoroughly and accurately and fairly, but also then be responsive to be able to provide the funds in such a way that they might see the quick benefit of them.”
Recipients will be chosen by a four-person panel, including two One Columbia board members, one affiliate of the South Carolina Arts Commission, and an additional outside voice, a local arts administrator well-versed with grant processes. The grants are open to professional artists, defined as those who earn at least 40 percent of their income from their artistic practice.
“They’re going to review the applications based on the needs expressed by the artists,” Snelgrove explains, adding that those without computer access can call One Columbia (803-254-5008), and a staff member will help them submit their application over the phone. “So it is not based on artistic merit, but it is based on the sort of biography of the artists and their accomplishments and most of the review process comes down to assessing their need and how the funds can benefit them.”
701’s new twist on its Artist-in-Residence program looks to adapt to the present circumstances. While standard residencies last for two weeks, the first participant in the adjusted version, Greenville painter and sculptor Kymberly Day, will be in residence for four weeks, while the next artist will stay on for six weeks. And the standard face-to-face programs — workshops, gallery talks, etc. — have been nixed for the sake of public safety.
“Artists are independent businesspeople, and like all business owners during this time, they are experiencing unprecedented challenges to their livelihood,” offers 701 Executive Director Allison Cicero Moore. “While online sales are an option, many professional artists rely on sales made during arts festivals. The stipend we are able to provide is not large, but we hope it can cover enough of their expenses to reduce some of their stress, thereby offering them the chance to make work to potentially sell — creating further revenue for them post-residency.”
Artist safety was obviously a big concern as the center figured out how to handle residents during this time.
“Our center’s live-work loft apartment is an ideal space to shelter-in-place,” More posits. “Artists don’t even need to leave to go to work, as they have ample space to live and create in the 1,200-square-foot apartment. We’ll rely on digital means to connect with Day and future residents, and to share programming with the public. Post-residency, the loft will be professionally deep-cleaned and multiple days will lapse before the next resident moves in.”
And as with the One Columbia fund, the 701 executive director points to reasons beyond the nature of her work when asked why Day was selected as the first artist to take part in the adjusted program.
“She is a hard-working and talented emerging artist, and is dedicated to the visual art field and her career,” Moore responds. “She also is experiencing a series of pandemic-related difficulties — with the closure of her studio and cancellation of art festivals at which she could’ve sold her work.”