By Michael Tedder
Ask For Help, Be Patient With Yourself And More Advice From The Arts Administrators of Color Network
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on all of us, but musicians have had it especially bad. The inability to tour has hurt artists’ livelihood and income, and not being able to connect with their fans onstage has left many performers feeling isolated and cut off from the thing that brings them the most joy.
The Arts Administrators of Color Network, which unofficially began in 2016, is an arts service network that focuses on networking and community building, and that advocates for equality in the arts.
"I would often be in a lot of spaces that were conferences or professional development opportunities, and it would only be myself and maybe another person of color in the space. And so after having a conversation with one of my classmates, we were like, ‘well, there has to be more of us out and about around the United States,’" she explains. "And so together we thought it would be really cool to bring together black, indigenous and people of color artists and arts administrators in one space."
The organization has a development series, a mentorship program and a podcast called Art Accordingly that looks at racial equity within the arts sector. And as of this year, it has an emergency fund that was established on March 15, two days after a National Emergency was declared in response to COVID-19.
"We're only a $50,000 organization. Everybody is a volunteer. But we realized that there was a need, and we needed to support folks," she says. "And so we've raised almost $200,000 and we've given out that amount to artists from all around the country."
Floyd says they have received over 15,000 applications, "which is a need of almost three million dollars, so we're still continuously fundraising and we're continuously taking applications until we get out of whatever the situation is happening in the world right now."
The Arts Administrators of Color Network gives out grants of $200 per person, "because we felt like we’d make more of an impact with the amount of people that we give funding to versus giving large amounts to folks, because there were so many opportunities being thrown out there. The fact that there's 15,000 people who need $200 is just mind-blowing to me."
From talking to artists, Floyd has heard stories of struggling to pay rent, or of those who lost their job and the health insurance that went along with it, especially because many black, indigneous and people of color "are in entry level and mid-level positions. And those were the positions that ended up being furloughed." It's an extremely difficult situation for artists, but she has some advice to help them get through it.
Know That There Is Help
The Arts Administrators of Color Network was recently featured in Rolling Stone, and based on the amount of applications they've received, Floyd thinks the organization has done a good job of getting the word out. But she's also aware that there's "a skepticism about the philanthropic sector in particular. Musicians, primarily, would apply for grants, and look at the grant application which asks for 600,000 things."
She's aware that unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy can turn people away from trying to get help, and her network has made steps to make the application process as painless as possible. "People don't have time to sit here and give you this and then that. We're in the middle of a global crisis. We don't have time to give you 10 million documents. So I think there was a hesitancy for folks to apply, even when I was calling folks to let them know that they were getting grant funding, people would think that I was joking," she says. "We just say, ‘prove you're an artist and give us a loss of income.’ And then we do research on our back end to make sure that your actual person and all that. Then we just send the money."
Obviously, Arts Administrators of Color Network isn't the only organization offering grants to artists in need. Not all organizations are going to be as easy to navigate as they are, it's still worth pushing ahead if you are in need of help. Floyd recommends the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, World Arts West and First Peoples Fund.
Other organizations worth looking at include:
Take Care Of Your Mental Health
"If they have insurance, I would say utilize that insurance and go to a therapist, psychiatrist, whatever they need," she says. "I'm very open with making sure folks go keep their emotional and mental health grounded."
If you don't have insurance, the National Alliance on Mental Health offers free treatment 24/7, just text NAMI to 741741.
You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD) to find free or sliding scale clinics in your area.
Don't Isolate Yourself
"Sometimes mental health can cause people to silo themselves and think that nobody cares about them," Floyd says. "But if they continue to create some type of routine with their friends, their family members and just checking in on them, I think that can help a lot, too. It lets them know that people are there for you."
And just because you're stuck inside doesn't mean you can't party with your friends, virtually. "If you need to schedule a Zoom Happy Hour with people or phone calls, then just have those comforting conversations with people that you know and love and make sure that you all are OK."
Don't Stop Playing Music
"I'm talking to myself when I say this, but I'm really talking to the artists as well. Make sure that you continue playing your instrument. I'm a musician. I was a Music Education Major and I played violin and piano, classically trained. And so I make sure that I continue to play and practice and rehearse on my own.”
Playing music, she points out, helps support mental health. "I know sometimes when you're stressed out, you just drop everything. But if you can keep that routine with maintaining playing your instrument, then I would highly recommend that as well."
Go Easy On Yourself
"Honestly, you have to just take it one day at a time. I blinked and it was already November and the elections came up," she says. "So just take care of yourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and then give yourself grace. Don't think that you need to be as productive as pre-covid because that's not real. We're in a new normal. So we need to be patient with ourselves."