Jared Thompson has been active in the Indianapolis music scene since 2005. As a jazz saxophonist, it’s not uncommon for Thompson to play three to four gigs around the city every week.
That was before COVID-19 brought live performances and other cultural events to a halt.
Now, Thompson is using social media to share his music and works from other local acts, but that doesn’t make up for the loss of income that many musicians and artists are facing.
To help artists struggling with this sudden financial loss, the Arts Council of Indianapolis established the Indy Arts and Culture COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.
Artists who make 40% of their income through the arts qualify for the grant, which is intended to support artists and their families during this health crisis.
The Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation Inc., the Central Indiana Community Foundation and the Efroymson Family Fund each donated $50,000 to the fund, and a public Go Fund Me campaign was created with a goal of $50,000, with gifts up to $25,000 being matched by the Efroymson Family Fund. The Relief Fund is expected to exceed $225,000, with 100% of the proceeds going towards artists.
Indianapolis Arts Council, in partnership with Indy Music Strategy and Indiana Humanities, will administer the fund.
Julie Goodman, president of the Indianapolis Arts Council, said it’s important to consider the economic impact the arts sector has on the local economy when discussing supporting artists financially during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The nonprofit arts and culture sector in the city contributes over $440 million annually in economic impact. That’s very significant,” Goodman said. “The sector employs over 30,000 people, about half of those are independent. … Arts and culture is a big aspect of our local hospitality and local tourism, and we serve over 8 million residents and visitors annually through those experiences.”
In the middle of a global pandemic, however, the significance of the arts may be more than its economic impact: The arts are getting people through these unprecedented times.
“Art is important to our collective healing and reflection,” Goodman said. “They’re helping us right now, whether we’re binge-watching Netflix or online content … think of all the artists and creatives that are touching all of that work, keeping people sustained during this time, and what our community would look like if those millions of creatives didn’t have access to arts education, culture and experiences. I don’t even want to imagine what that would mean.”
Thompson has stopped counting the number of gigs that have been canceled due to COVID-19 but has applied for the relief fund and recommends other artists do the same. While he admits he isn’t facing as dire a financial situation as other local artists thanks to support from his fan base, he expects to see more extreme changes to his finances as the stay-in-place order continues.
“I think the reason that sentiment [that the arts shouldn’t be funded] is because people take for granted what their holistic experience sounds like and feels like,” Thompson said. “People like to be entertained, and how do you think that happens? Through an art gallery or watching a live show. These are things that people have just gotten used to and think they just happen without sacrifice. If you don’t support these kinds of things, you’ll see a lack of venues, and a lot of artists without places to play.”
If you’re looking to support local artists while venues and galleries are shut down, Thompson recommends using social media.
“It could be as simple as getting a list of bands and liking them on their social media platforms and sharing their things,” he said. “ … Check out their artworks or albums, and ask about how you can pay them if you’re in a position to do that. Take it upon yourself to promote that artist’s visibility.”
Local vocalist Lynzi Stringer, who has had to cancel several shows due to COVID-19, hopes this support for the arts continues when venues and galleries open back up.
“[Artists] are out there every week doing what keeps them going,” she said. “For a lot of people, that’s financially. For a lot of people, it’s therapeutic. For most, it’s both. It’s important to support live music and creativity to keep the artists thriving. I think we all are going to appreciate things a lot more when this is all over.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.
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