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News >  Spokane

Spokane Arts raising funds for struggling artists amid pandemic

UPDATED: Thu., March 26, 2020

Bobsy McArthur and her dog, Bernie, made a stop to view the abstract topophilia work of artist Ben Joy, right, during the 33rd annual ArtFest in Coeur d’Alene Park in 2018. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Bobsy McArthur and her dog, Bernie, made a stop to view the abstract topophilia work of artist Ben Joy, right, during the 33rd annual ArtFest in Coeur d’Alene Park in 2018. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

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A local arts group is working to assist artists who’ve lost business and musicians who can’t perform.

Spokane Arts is donating $25,000 of its own money – a portion of the Jeanette Harras Trust – to its Spokane Artists and Creatives Emergency Fund, meant to aid artists in the community who are struggling financially due to COVID-19, said Melissa Huggins, Spokane Arts executive director.

“We are hoping that demonstration of how important we think this is helps galvanize the community to support and donate as well,” Huggins said.

Huggins said Spokane Arts has already distributed a little over $5,000 but still has $35,000 in requests remaining, and she only expects that number to get higher.

Brandy Seistrup, Red Fox Ginger Studio owner, is an artist who received relief from the fund.

She works in ink, watercolor and acrylics, splitting her time between fine arts shows and comicons. She would normally make 25% of her income at a recently canceled Seattle show. Seistrup has two kids, 5 and 8, and because she is self-employed, like so many artists, she doesn’t qualify for unemployment.

Seistrup, River Ridge Association for Fine Arts vice president, said her family didn’t have a lot of money when she was growing up and, because of this, she was hesistant to even ask for anything because she knows other people have it worse than her. She didn’t ask for the full amount Spokane Arts is awarding at this time, which is $500.

Seistrup said aside from contributing to Spokane Arts’ fund, people can support artists by buying their work or gift cards online, or simply by sharing it so the work reaches a larger audience – perhaps finding someone who is able to purchase it.

Rebecca Stamm, who also received money from the fund, was supposed to adjudicate the large ensemble festival at Whitworth University on March 23-24, and many of her scheduled performances have been canceled. She said around 75% of her income has been from performing, with the remaining amount coming from teaching.

Stamm, a violinist and pianist, is a single mother to a 3-year old. One of the difficult aspects of the current situation is, after struggling for a while, things had been improving, she said. Performing is a huge part of her life that is now missing.

“Any musician will tell you it’s like you might as well have just chopped off their arm, you know?” Stamm said. “Or chopped off their mouth. That’s how it feels to have all this work taken away.”

Poet and artist Kat Smith said she’s been trying to figure out how to best help the community with a plethora of worthy causes. Smith has an Etsy shop – PaperHermitage – that sells handmade journals with covers from repurposed vintage books and game boards, collage art, embroidery and cards. She decided for the next six weeks her profits from that shop would go to the Spokane Arts emergency fund.

“I picked that just because I felt like being able to support individual people the most direct way of providing help, and it gives me a sense of purpose to what I’m doing right now,” said Smith, a former Spokesman-Review copy editor.

Local visual artist Christy Branson also has offered to donate 10% of new sales from her online show in April to the Artist Relief fund.

Separate from the emergency fund is the Spokane Arts Grant Awards, which Spokane Arts awards three times a year for artists, art organizations, collectives, community programs and more.

The first round of grant awards will be announced April 1. Applications for the next round are open now and due June 1. Spokane Arts will award a total of $150,000 in 2020, as opposed to $125,000 in past years. The maximum grant amount is $10,000.

Huggins wants to make sure the community knows SAGA grants can be awarded for operational support. In other words, people can apply for grants that will help “keep the lights on.”

“All of these organizations and venues that are facing ticket losses and event cancellations can apply to SAGA to receive up to $10,000 to help them through this period,” Huggins said.

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