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Two new relief funds target Seattle area's battered cultural community

caption: Area hula dancers rehearse near Tacoma.
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Area hula dancers rehearse near Tacoma.
KUOW photo @ Megan Farmer

Arts advocates launched two new arts emergency funds on Friday. The money will help artists and nonprofit arts groups cope with the huge economic hits resulting from the COVID-19 public gathering ban.

The advocacy group Arts Fund surveyed 85 local cultural organizations last week. They report that if the ban continues through May, they will lose a combined $73 million in revenue, and leave thousands of contract workers unemployed.

“It’s immense,” says Arts Fund interim CEO Sue Coliton.

Arts Fund is spearheading private relief efforts that specifically target cultural groups. So far, they’ve raised $1.5 million and hope to bring in more.

Individual artists can apply for emergency relief from a second fund announced Friday, administered by the advocacy group Artist Trust. They say they’ll make cash grants immediately available to affected artists.

“Right now, artists are facing severe career disruption, financial loss, anxiety and isolation” from the COVID-19 crisis, the organization said in its emergency fund announcement.

Earlier this week both the City of Seattle and the King County agency 4Culture dedicated public money to emergency relief for the regional arts sector. Combined with the two new private funds, more than $4 million is currently available.

Sue Coliton says it’s just a start in terms of meeting the needs of the region’s once-thriving cultural economy.

“It’s going to take a combination of public, private, local, regional and federal relief efforts,” says Coliton. “But this sector needs relief because when we get to the other side, the arts are going to give relief to us.”

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