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Emergency Relief Fund Set Up To Assist Kansas City Artists

Musician and performance artist Calvin Arsenia performs weekly on-line concerts, such as this one on Facebook.
Musician and performance artist Calvin Arsenia now performs on-line concerts, such as this one on Facebook.

Starting May 1, arts organizations plan lottery distribution of $1,000 checks to artists hurt by coronavirus shutdown.

Since mid-March, Kansas City artists have lost income from shows and gigs postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus.

“The way that artists live is so on the edge that something like this can really blow them out of their capacity to function,” says Amy Kligman, executive/artistic director of the Charlotte Street Foundation.

On Friday, Charlotte Street, in partnership with the Spencer Museum of Art, ArtsKC-Regional Arts Council and Theater League will launch a new $120,000 emergency relief program called Rocket Relief Fund.

Part of the money comes from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which distributes funds to organizations around the country such as Charlotte Street and the Spencer Museum, who then make grants to artists for specific projects. This year's $60,000 for Rocket Grant awards will be re-distributed as emergency funding.

"Artists are critical to our cultural vibrancy and sense of connection to one another," Spencer Museum Director Saralyn Reece Hardy said in a release. "Our ongoing partnership with Charlotte Street and the Warhol Foundation allows us the great honor of providing direct support to artists in this challenging time."

Starting on May 1, ten "visual, multi-disciplinary, and performing artists" from the 80-mile radius of the Kansas City metro will each receive $1,000 as a flat stipend through a lottery-based system. Ten grants will be distributed each week on a rolling basis until the fund is spent.

“I’m glad that this opportunity will be there because we know that artists are important to Kansas City,” said Kligman, “and we feel like it’s critical to meet them where they are at this time and make sure they have support.”

Theater League provides support to theaters and projects around the country.

“Recognizing that they have lost and will continue to lose significant ticket revenue on which they relied,” the organization's board of directors boosted operating grants to organizations by 50%, said President Mark Edelman.

Teaming up on this initiative, said Edelman, provided an opportunity to funnel $40,000 in direct support to artists, “to put money in the hands of actors, stage managers, directors, designers and stage technicians — the folks who make the art happen.”

Arts organizations, such as Mid-America Arts Alliance and ArtsKC, are pivoting to assess needs, surveying artists and arts organizations and providing resources. ArtsKC will contribute $20,000 to the relief fund.

“It certainly isn’t going to meet every need because the needs are great," said ArtsKC president and CEO Dana Knapp. "This has been devastating to our sector and to our industry.

“But from my perspective, we just really need to begin.”

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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