VISIONS-Looking through my window pain by Yata Yoma 2.JPG

"Looking through my window pain" by Yata Yoma

In the spirit of keeping art alive during the postponed/canceled community events due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), ArtsGreensboro’s Artist Emergency Relief Fund is providing much-needed support to Greensboro’s working artists in visual art, theatre, dance, music, film, pottery and more across the entire Greensboro area, including its surrounding counties.

April 2 marks Laura Way’s one-year anniversary as president & CEO of ArtsGreensboro. Way brings a wealth of experience as former executive director of GreenHill, former vice president of institutional advancement at the McColl Center for Art and Innovation in Charlotte, and as former director of operations and finance at Penland School of Crafts. Nothing could have prepared her and her staff for this challenge at hand.

Way said that everything an art organization does stems from other artists, and that “ArtsGreensboro would not exist after 60+ years if not for artists painting or songwriters creating music or writers writing those books. The arts are vibrant because there are artists.”

Way said that most artists work as independent contractors, and do not receive unemployment benefits when they lose work. She said that other disaster relief options are either nonexistent or very complicated.

“There’s not a safety net for artists,” Way said. “If not ArtsGreensboro, who is it going to be?”

Way said this fund “isn’t about buying a writer an iPad to write a book with.” Instead, Way explained that the fund would provide “basic human needs” to working artists with the money raised.

Way said ArtsGreensboro received their first 60 applications on March 20 and once an application is in the queue, it remains there week after week. Then, Way said, every Friday starting March 27, ArtsGreensboro would make payments to as many of the applicants as possible, based on funds available—as it is 100% dependent upon donations.

Way said as a leader, she is asking for the generosity of individuals “who are lucky enough to give $5 or $500 or more.” She said a Charlotte campaign’s arts donor just stepped up with a $25,000 gift.

“Imagine what that would do in Greensboro,” she said. “I could only hope that someone here in our community who really enjoys having art on their walls, going to the symphony or the theatre or going out to hear music, will lean in and say, ‘I want to be the one to start that type of gifting.’”

Way said the ArtsGreensboro staff is working daily from their homes sending emails, and she is trying to keep her staff “intact and emotionally whole, while also talking to a few innovative foundations for backstop funding.” While United Way and the Community Foundation are working on a “whole community approach,” with emphasis on the social service needs, ArtsGreensboro is focusing on the artists and arts organizations.

Way said she was so happy to receive a wonderful phone call from Kristy Jackson, who founded Triad Music Matters in 2012. “We’re better together,” Way said of Jackson, who is collaborating with the ArtsGreensboro fund by providing weekly resources for the musicians who apply.

Applicant Lyn Koonce, full-time Greensboro singer-songwriter and founder of Harmony Music School, knows the importance of community support, as she provides music lessons and instruments to under-privileged youth. After having her gigs canceled due to the closure of restaurants and bars, she never thought she would be asking for assistance herself.

“I am inspired by the ingenuity of our singer-songwriters to maximize ways to stay connected by streaming live concerts,” she said. “I am doing all I can to bring people together during my time off.”

Applicant Yata Yoma (Miata Burgos) is a painter, photographer and singer-songwriter following where her soul leads her. While it’s hard enough to lose income due to canceled shows, what she said she misses most is the connection and inspiration.

“We really do need the support of other artists so we don’t feel like we are alone,” Burgos said.

Applicant Dominique Alexis, of The Gate City Grooves, is a self-proclaimed “hip-hop dance artist masquerading as a movement analyst,” who lost his income due to school closures.

He was a dance instructor at Salem College, Greensboro Performance Center and Peck Elementary. Alexis said he is now learning new ways to teach online.

“We will come out of this,” Way said. “It’s hard and stressful, and for those having a hard time navigating, I recommend looking at what artists are doing all over the country, like Yo Yo Ma streaming ‘Songs of Comfort.’ Read a book of poetry. Take a piece of paper and let your hand guide you to what you are feeling in your heart. A common sense of empathy across our community extends to our artist community with joy and love. Then, we can remember this time with gratitude for the future experiences being brought to you because these artists never gave up.”

Wanna donate or apply?

To donate or apply, visit the ArtsGreensboro website. To donate on your phone, text ARTSGSO to 44-321 or mail a check to ArtsGreensboro, P.O. Box 877, Greensboro, NC 27402. Read Way’s personal letter regarding COVID-19 here.

TERRY RADER is a freelance writer/editorial/content/copy, creative consultant/branding strategist, communications outreach messenger, poet and emerging singer/songwriter.

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