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Support for New Generations of Artists

Mon, 02/21/2022 - 16:24
Jeremy Dennis was one of many artists involved in the design of the Creatives Rebuild New York programs.
Courtesy of Jeremy Dennis

Artists in New York State have until March 25 to apply for grants or jobs through an initiative founded to address financial strains on them brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Creatives Rebuild New York is a three-year program started last year to provide artists in need with a guaranteed income through a $1,000-a-month grant for 18 months or two-year employment opportunities that benefit the communities in which they live. 

Jeremy Dennis, a Southampton artist and a tribal member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, is one of 28 members of the group's Think Tank, a committee of artists and arts professionals who contributed to the design of the programs and are providing technical expertise and guidance. 

"Creatives Rebuild New York is an incredible opportunity for New York-based artists in need of support," he said in an email. "Our area of N.Y. is known for the arts and its wealth, but there are still many deserving artists from underserved communities that can use this support -- especially in the time of Covid and income source losses."

Another committee, a nine-member leadership council, is in charge of administration and financial oversight. Carrie Mae Weems is one of five members who represent the creative fields being addressed in this effort. Sarah Calderon is executive director. 

The group raised $125 million to assist 2,700 artists whose primary residence is in New York to continue working and living in the state under less financial strain. Backing the effort were the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation ($115 million), the Ford Foundation ($5 million), and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation ($5 million). The project is being sponsored by the Tides Center, which will provide organizational and operational support.

The Guaranteed Income for Artists program will give its grants to 2,400 artists. Recognized artistic fields are broadly defined and include "but aren't limited to: craft, dance, design, film, literary arts, media arts, music, oral traditions, social practice, theater, performance art, traditional arts, visual arts, and interdisciplinary arts."

To qualify for the $1,000 monthly stipend, artists must have financial need, which is defined by a household income lower than the self-sufficiency standard. A link to calculate the standard based on incomes in the state and county is provided in the online application guide. To give an idea of the criteria, to reside in Suffolk County requires an income of about $41,000 for a single adult or about $88,500 for a family of three with an infant in order to be self-sufficient. Those with incomes below those amounts would be considered to have financial need. 

The Artist Employment Program is a two-year program that will provide funding for 300 artists to work with community-based organizations across the state. Those artists will have a $65,000 annual salary, benefits, and dedicated time for their artistic practice. The organizations will receive $25,000 to $100,000 per year to support their participation. Benefits such as medical, dental, and vision insurance will be supported financially by the project and given through the employer.

Artists and the organizations they want to work with must apply together, with either allowed to initiate the relationship, but both specifically named. Although there are no restrictions on the artists aside from their residency, there are restrictions on the organizations providing the employment. They must have tax-exempt 501c3 status or be fiscally sponsored by a 501c3 public charity and have New York State as the principal place of business. Organizations must also address underserved communities and people such as rural areas, people of color, immigrants, the disabled, and low-income or nonbinary groups.

Artists can apply to only one of the programs, income or employment. "We encourage all potential applicants to consider, prior to applying, which program is best suited to their needs," Creatives Rebuild New York said. Full information about eligibility, the programs, and the application process and portal to apply are on the group's website.

The program may have only a short timeline, but it is intended to be a model for future programs that might use its experience, organization, and administration as a template.

Mr. Dennis sees possibilities in future projects more narrowly focused on this area. "I also hope that by the end of the two-year program, there will be local support to adopt these models to support artists."


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