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LA Arts Funders: COVID-19 Response Call Takeaways

Publication date: 
Thursday, March 26, 2020


Few sectors have escaped the financial havoc brought on by COVID-19. Among the hardest hit is the arts and creative sector which has faced tremendous challenges with the complete shutdown of events, museums, public performances, and more. Given the nonprofit status of most creative organizations and the freelance and gig-based nature of most artists’ work, this outbreak has devastated the livelihood of an already vulnerable sector. This week, the LA Arts Funders Group came together to elevate the most pressing challenges the creative community is facing and the strategies funders are using to support artists and organizations during this crisis. 


  • Estimating Financial Losses: Americans for the Arts has launched a survey for nonprofits in order “to collect information about the financial and human impacts that the spread of the coronavirus has had on arts and cultural organizations and artists.” Based on their preliminary data, they’ve found that arts nonprofits are reporting an average loss of $15,000 nationally and $34,000 in California per organization. 
  • Emergency Funds for Artists: Some arts funders are creating or transforming current grants into emergency assistance funds for artists who have lost work due to event cancellations. Others are dispersing emergency microgrants to artists in the performing arts community to keep them afloat during this crisis. 
  • Reimagining Art Projects: Other funders are working with grantees to redesign postponed projects and performances by adapting them as online content. With the uncertain timelines around COVID-19, funders are encouraging artists to adopt virtual models to produce and deliver content. 
  • Flexible Grantmaking: Arts funders are making their grants and processes more flexible to support impacted nonprofits and creatives during this crisis. Common strategies include removing burdensome grant requirements and reporting, transitioning project funding to general operating support, encouraging grantees to invoice immediately in order to process payment, postponing or rolling over grants to the next fiscal year, and fast-tracking payment to those experiencing cash flow issues (i.e. wire transfers, etc). 
  • Current Challenges & Opportunities: Several funders expressed a need for a tool to assess current needs, predict financial losses, and forecast the long-term implications that COVID-19 will have on the arts and creative sector. There is also concern that as the federal government examines the economic impact of the outbreak, arts funding might be deemed nonessential and funding could be in danger. Others are viewing this as an opportunity to reinvent the field by encouraging artists to adapt to the “new normal” of using virtual models to increase access for diverse audiences and remain relevant by focusing on pressing post-COVID-19 issues (i.e. food security, joblessness, etc). 



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