Spokane native and singer-songwriter Dario Ré, 31, has spent the last three years cobbling together a vibrant career as a full-time musician and member of the band Heat Speak. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded last week, every single one of the 12 gigs he had lined up this month was canceled.
The new social distancing means that his job as a music teacher providing private lessons also is in peril. “My students have been dropping like flies,” Ré said.
The road trip to Canada with his nine-member band, gigs at a local yoga studio, the merch he creates and sells at shows, have all been deleted from Ré’s calendar. That means no income from his art.
For many local artists, an empty calendar means no paychecks. Working from home or taking paid time off is not an option for freelancers, performance-based artists or gallery exhibitors. Many chefs, musicians, photographers, painters, floral artists, sound engineers, theater makers, muralists, filmmakers, dancers and writers who make Spokane, well, Spokane, are suffering.
With rent looming and cupboards emptying, many full-time and hourly workers who have been laid off are starting to apply for unemployment benefits. But there are no equivalent benefits for artists who are considered “self-employed.”
To help provide immediate relief, the nonprofit Spokane Arts has launched a Spokane Artists & Creatives Emergency Fund. Artists are encouraged to apply to receive a small amount of cash, up to $500, to help them through the next few weeks.
“These artists are our neighbors and friends who have been hit with the equivalent of a devastating natural disaster that they have no control over,” Spokane Arts executive director Melissa Huggins said. “They want to work, but all of their outlets to work are shut down.”
Huggins encouraged the greater Spokane community to dig deep and provide help to individual artists facing difficult times due to the new social distancing mandates. “If you would have gone out to lunch or gone to a movie, or were planning to attend an arts event that was canceled, then please, in any small way you can, please support those individuals by giving to this fund.” For more information or to donate, go to spokanearts.kindful.com/artistrelief.
Spokane Arts also will accept pledges to be collected in June of more than $200. If interested, email email@example.com Priority will be given to those already facing systemic inequities such as artists of color, artists with disabilities and trans+ and non-binary artists.
While the emergency fund is for individual artists, arts organizations have the opportunity to apply for a Spokane Arts Grant Award to keep operations running and the bills paid, as well. Those SAGA applications from organizations are due June 1. For more information, go to
“I think it’s awesome what Spokane Arts is doing,” Ré said. “Trying to help people in times of need. Why not artists?”
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