A $125 million program offering guaranteed income to 2,400 artists across New York State who can demonstrate financial need is now accepting applications.
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The offers promise to appeal to struggling artists. One would provide $1,000 a month for 18 months, no strings attached, to make it easier to spend time on creative work. The other is for a $65,000-a-year job with a community-based organization or a municipality.
Artists who live in New York State and can demonstrate financial need are being invited to apply for either beginning Monday as part of a new $125 million initiative called Creatives Rebuild New York that is being supported by several major foundations.
The new initiative — which will provide monthly stipends to 2,400 New York artists, and jobs to another 300 — is the latest in a series of efforts around the country to give guaranteed income to artists. Programs are already underway in San Francisco, St. Paul, Minn., and elsewhere. The idea gained support during the pandemic, when live performances ground to a halt, galleries were closed, art fairs were canceled, and many art and music lessons were paused, leaving artists to suffer some of the worst job losses in the nation.
“There are guaranteed income programs that have been launching across the country, many of them pilots to understand if this work has been working,” Sarah Calderon, the executive director of the program said in an interview. “Creatives Rebuild New York has seen that data and really believes that it does work.”
The intention, Calderon said, is not just to generate guaranteed income for artists, but to make sure that any broader guaranteed income programs that are being considered take into account the needs of artists and the importance and value of their work.
The program is supported with $115 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, $5 million from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and $5 million from the Ford Foundation. Funds for the program are overseen by the Tides Center.
Who can apply? The program’s definition of an artist is fairly broad, describing it as “someone who regularly engages in artistic or cultural practice” to express themselves, pass on traditional knowledge, offer cultural resources to their communities or work with communities toward social impacts. Disciplines that fall within its definition include crafts, dance, design, film, literary arts, media arts, music, oral tradition, social practice, theater, performance art, traditional arts, visual arts and interdisciplinary arts.
Elizabeth Alexander, the president of the Mellon Foundation, said that the idea stemmed from her work on a state panel, the Reimagine New York Commission, which brought together people from a wide array of fields to consider how the state should rebuild from the pandemic and become more equitable.
“As we continue to envision and work towards our post-pandemic reality,” she said in a statement, “it’s critical that we not overlook the artist workers whose labor is an essential part of our economy and whose continued work sustains us.”
Emil J. Kang, who directs the Mellon Foundation’s program for arts and culture, noted that many artists have to take on multiple jobs to make ends meet. With these programs, he said, hopefully they could devote more time to their art.
“We need to actually value the hours and the labor that artists have put into their work that extends beyond what we see on these stages and gallery walls,” Kang said in an interview. “We need to understand that there is labor that goes into all these things that ultimately the public sees.”
The program, which will accept applications through March 25, will attempt to reach communities that are historically underserved by philanthropy. The application process will include accommodations for non-English speakers, people with disabilities and those without internet access.
“This isn’t just about the pandemic,” said Calderon, who added that the goal was to find new, better ways to support artists.
“Often funding is merit-based, often funding involves rather burdensome processes to get the funds,” she said. “And often there’s not enough to go around.”