It has now been just over a year since the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19 became a pandemic and forced the world’s population to shelter-in-place and large and small businesses to temporarily shut down; some to never open again. For the arts, this has been a year of reimagining how we continue to exist, create, connect, and move forward. Many in the dance world have turned to online technology to create new work or to redistribute repertoire that exists on film or video.

Even before the pandemic threatened to crush California dance artists, the state passed Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), popularly known as the “gig worker bill,” that would require companies to hire independent contractors as employees forcing them to pay extra payroll taxes and insurances. The bill has been rewritten into AB2257 but it remains a financial destroyer for small dance companies and studios. You can read more about AB5 HERE and AB2257 HERE. California for the Arts also provides links to updated information on AB5 and AB2257 HERE.

On the more positive side, there are organizations that have been helping artists maneuver through these financially perilous times.  Some of them include Dance USA, Americans for the Arts, Arts for LA, California for the Arts, and The Wallace Foundation. No one organization has a solution for every artist’s needs but take a look and see if any could help you with a particular situation. To paraphrase a colleague of mine, as a result of the pandemic organizations, funders, arts advocates and others have come to realize how important the Arts are for the mental and emotional health of the nation.  Funders are actually asking artists to apply for everything so that they can go to their donors with a list of qualified individuals and companies that they were unable to fund due to a lack of money.

In honor of April being Arts Month, here are a few sites to begin looking for support:

According to their website: “Arts for LA is a voice for the arts in Greater Los Angeles that informs, engages, and mobilizes individuals and organizations to advocate for access to the arts across all communities; arts education for every student; robust investment in the arts; and inclusion of diverse and underrepresented voices. Arts for LA invests in leadership development, growing networks of civically engaged advocates; building deep relationships with elected officials; and working in partnership across sectors to make LA a vibrant, prosperous, creative, and healthy society.”

This past February Arts for LA sent out a notice stating “a coalition of private and public funders launched the LA Arts Recovery Fund. This $38.5 million pooled fund will: provide flexible, multi-year operating support for small and medium-sized arts organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — those with smaller budgets that play vital roles in their communities.” Unfortunately, the deadline to apply has passed, but it is a source to keep in mind for future funding.

While looking through the Arts for LA website, I came upon a petition page – and I will put this here in the organization’s own words so as not to represent.

Add your name to this petition and join Arts for LA in calling for a just recovery for the arts workers who keep Los Angeles the creative capital of the world.

We demand significant public investment in the grassroots organizations and working artists struggling to meet their basic needs. OUR LEADERS MUST DIRECT FEDERAL STIMULUS FUNDING TO THE ARTS WORKERS & ORGANIZATIONS THAT MAKE OUR COMMUNITIES HEALTHIER, SUSTAINABLE, AND MORE EQUITABLE.

City Council MUST agendize and pass the resolution put forward by Councilmembers Lee, O’Farrell, and Blumenfield in support of directing federal stimulus to arts & culture.

To learn more and to sign the petition, click HERE.

With over 15,000 active subscribers, Californians for the Arts states that it is “the only comprehensive, multidisciplinary organization focused on advancing and building public awareness of the value and impact of arts, culture and creativity across California”. It helps increase Arts funding, make the Arts more accessible, strategize policy development and promotes pay and cultural equality. Californians for the Arts is opening its last round (Round 6) of the CA. Relief Grant Program on April 28, 2021 and will be open through May 4, 2021.  The site offers upcoming webinars, recorded webinars, office hours, and a long list of FAQs (frequently Asked Questions) to assist artists in applying for financial relief.  You can learn more HERE.

Based in Washington, D.C., Dance USA has a team that covers research, advocacy and visibility, archiving and preservation, task force on dancer health, development, communications and more. Its website states that Dance USA’s core programs are focused in areas of engagement, advocacy, research and preservation. There is a small fee of $25 to become a member of Dance USA but it offers a wide range of support. The membership categories include Organizations, Affiliates and Individuals. The category of Organizations include agents, managers, producers & promoters, dance companies, presenters, and service organizations. Affiliates is for business, education and international affiliates; and under Individuals they list independent artists and choreographers, individuals, professional dancers and students.  Learn more about what Dance USA offers HERE.

Based in New York City, The Wallace Foundation strives to “help strengthen practices and policies with in a field. There is a page on its website dedicated to navigating the COVID-19 pandemic by listing ideas, information and guidance for educator and arts professionals by providing links to blog posts, webinars, and reports that are relevant to an individual or organization’s particular needs. The categories are broken down into The Education Landscape, Art in the Shadow of COVID, Making Sense of the CARES Act, Financial Management for Nonprofits, and Statements from the Wallace Foundation. You can access this page by clicking HERE.

Another advocacy group is Americans for the Arts whose mission “is to build recognition and support for the extraordinary and dynamic value of the arts and to lead, serve, and advance the diverse networks of organizations and individuals who cultivate the arts in America”. Indeed, their website includes an extremely informative and resourceful Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource and Response Center with up-to-date news and resources for organizations and individuals in the arts and culture fields.

Another is the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI). This organization has advertised online workshops and webinars called Financial Wellness for Creative Entrepreneurs (5 Things to Know, Do, and Believe) with Elaine Grogan-Luttrull which will take place on April 28, 2021, 5:00 – 7:00 PM. The topic is Financial Management and Accounting. The fee is $5-25 sliding scale.  You can register by clicking HERE.  There is also a list of other funding sources on the CCI website.

The above list does not include every city, state and federal agency that provide grant assistance, but it is a start. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has a page that lists State and Regional arts Organizations that includes Western States Arts Federation and the California Arts Council. To view, click HERE. Research your city’s arts organization. For example: In Long Beach, CA. one can find out who is eligible and how to apply for arts grants HERE. Google is your friend when in search for such resources.

With the new vaccines becoming more widely available, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel appears to be hope rather than an oncoming freight train. Once the pandemic ends and businesses begin to reopen, performance venues begin offering live performances and dance studios in-person classes, artists will still be confronting the financial backlash of AB5 and AB2257. I hope to be interviewing artists, company directors and choreographers on this subject in the near future. Right now, we are all putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, and one day at a time.

We will get through this if we travel together.

Many thanks to Deborah Brockus for her assistance with this article.

Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Wave – From the web.