“Mutual aid projects are a form of political participation in which people take responsibility for caring for one another and changing political conditions, not just through symbolic acts or putting pressure on their representatives in government, but by actually building new social relations that are more survivable.”
This quote comes from the Big Door Brigade, a multi-regional collective inspired by scholar/lawyer/organizer Dean Spade’s uplifting of mutual aid “as a strategy for survival and mobilization.”
In the wake of CDC recommendation to halt public gatherings of 50 people or more, theatre has been especially affected. Broadway has closed down, as have many theatres in Chicago. Google docs and GoFundMe’s are ripping across our social media feeds as part of an endeavor to lift up and provide support to those who need it. (Local Chicago journalist Kris Vire is keeping us up to date on arts cancellations, and it is staggering.) Writing from the perspective of an artist and graduate student, I’ve seen and felt the economic and emotional impact of the collapse of jobs and social support systems. We are witnessing how the intersection of human rights and our government interests continue to butt against each other — when they don’t have to.
Organizers and artists have taken it upon themselves to create mutual aid projects that provide support we just aren’t receiving on-the-ground in-real-time. One GoFundMe out of Seattle set a precedent for possibility here in Chicago. The Seattle Artist Relief Fund, organized by Ijeoma Oluo, aims to put money back into artists’ pockets. Many of us lost a huge amount if not all of our March/April income in the face of COVID-19 cancellations.
Thanks to the ingenuity and resilience of those laboring for mutual aid, there are a number of resources available to artists. Here, we’ve collected some of the resources currently circulating that are offering artists support. Please consider the needs of others as you apply, as we are also suffering on a spectrum from a few cancelled gigs to an absolute absence of income. Look out for each other and give in whatever capacity you are able.
Chicago COVID-19 Hardship and Help Page via Transformative Spaces
Organized by Kelly Hayes and Delia Galindo, this resource provides opportunity for financial solidarity for any folks seeking support. A statement from activist/organizer Kelly Hayes:
“I know a lot of you are facing financial problems as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. While various mutual aid efforts get organized, Delia Galindo and I wanted to create a space where people could make and answer calls for financial assistance. The goal is to give folks a place to tell their stories and ask for help, and to get those stories in front of people who might be able to assist. If you need help, feel free to fill out the form or pass it along to someone who should.”
Organized Adeleina Feldman-Schultz, Claire Stone, Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, Elizabeth Blondel, Ellenor Riley-Condit, Hal Cosentino, Jessica Kadish-Herandez , Lindsay Hopkins, and Michael McCracken. With a specific call to artists in need, these organizers are centering relief for BIPOC, transgender and nonbiany, queer artists, and disabled artists. The closure of our artistic homes and communal spaces out of necessary safety measures has rendered many of us out of work. Read their press release here.
This relief resource is functioning nationally with a cap of $250 for artists directly impacted by COVID-19. It is on a first-come-first-serve basis and will be accepting donations indefinitely.
Queer Writers of Color Relief Fund
Organized by Luther Hughes of Shade Literary Arts, this relief resource is functioning nationally and centers LGBTQIA+ BIPOC writers with a goal to help at least 100 writers. Priority is given to queer trans women of color and queer disabled writers of color.
The City of Chicago has this fund available to help people maintain their current housing situation “during the time it takes to regain stability.” This is a one-time grant for up to $900.
This Los Angeles-based fund endeavors to directly support musicians across the country who have lost work from cancelled gigs.
Performing Artist Emergency Micro-Lending Grants
These grants are capped at $250 and designed to pay artists’ direct living expenses. They do not need to be paid back, but reciprocity is encouraged when capacity allows.
UPDATE: March 17th, 9:30pm
Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Emergency Fund
These grants are capped at $200 with the intention to help as many folks pursuing careers as artists or arts administrators. They provide short-term, immediate financial assistance for BIPOC folks.
COVID-19 Trans/Queer Relief Form
This form makes space to either offer or request resources ranging from money to local grocery delivery. It is unclear who organized this resource, but they are providing mediation between givers and requesters or facilitating an anonymous transfer of resources.
Panel: Artists in a Time of Global Pandemic (ASL & Captioned)
This livestream produced by Howlround Theatre Commons uplifts a general aggregate resource list for US-based freelance artists and cultural workers in all disciplines. The corresponding website on COVID-19 & Freelance Artists is a treasure trove of multi-disciplinary supports.
Illinois Artists of Color Emergency Grants via For the People Artists Collective
For the People Artists Collective is offering micro-grants up to $500 thanks to the Field Foundation paired with a forthcoming GoFundMe. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until funds run out. This relief fund centers BIPOC artists who might also identify as LGBTQIA+, chronically-ill, and/or disabled.
We’ll be updating this list as more mutual and financial aid endeavors emerge. Now is the time to show generosity to yourself and to others by acknowledging and addressing collective need with action. If you see more resources out there you think we should add, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.