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Not A Pretty Picture: Artists Struggling During Pandemic

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Visual artists are among the most impacted by the Covid crisis, according to a survey by Americans for the Arts.
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More than 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment, as the jobless rate during the pandemic approaches an estimated 20%. A new report says one occupation is among the most devastated: artists.

Nearly two-thirds of creative workers say they have lost their livelihoods as a result of the crisis, according to a new survey conducted by the advocacy organization Americans for the Arts.

Based on responses by more than 11,000 artists, 95% of those surveyed said they have experienced income loss attributed to Covid-19, with the average earnings shortfall already more than $27,000. The National Endowment for the Arts estimates 2.5 million U.S. citizens are visual and performing artists.

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The job losses for artists rival some of the industries hardest hit in the pandemic, including restaurant workers, where two-out-of-three employees have lost their jobs, according to the National Restaurant Assn.


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It's not just that museums, galleries and performance spaces are closed; some two-thirds of the surveyed artists -- the majority of whom are visual artists -- also said they are unable to access materials and resources necessary to create new work.

At the same time, artists said they are committed to using their creative practice to assist in a post-pandemic recovery.

"Even as the creative backbone of the United States is breaking financially, creative workers stand ready to be part of the recovery - often whether they'll end up being paid to deploy their creativity or not," said Robert L. Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, in announcing the survey results. "However, they do indeed need to be paid."

Locally, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs has launched a relief fund for artists whose planned performances in the city were canceled.

The grants range from $400 for solo artists to $1,200 for ensembles, and so far the DCA has approved and/or processed payments for 170 individual performing artists and members of small ensembles in dance, music and theater. A second round of funding, expanded to cover craft artists, teachers and authors, and independent filmmakers whose public readings or screenings in Los Angeles were canceled, was announced on Friday.

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In an email, Danielle Brazell, general manager of the DCA, said: "Our actions show that we understand the importance of the artistic community; that the arts are a vital component of the City's identity; and that arts and culture play a critical role in getting us through this current public health crisis."

Previously, the Getty Trust launched a $10 million fund for local arts organizations.

On a national level, a group of arts organizations, foundations and individuals have launched Artist Relief (also a backer of the Americans for the Arts survey), which provides grants of $5,000 for artists facing financial emergencies. Underscoring the crisis for artists, Artists Relief received in its first two weeks more than 50,000 applications for its initial 200 grants.