The arts and learning sector has always needed grants and financial support long before COVID-19 struck. So, it’s easy to imagine how challenging it is for artists, creative professionals, and educators everywhere now that the pandemic has shut down most venues. The art and education fields in particular have to grapple with new working conditions in these difficult times.
Ken Heinz of Weeping Water, Nebraska, is a retired school superintendent with over 35 years in the field of education. Having earned his undergraduate degree in Music Education and Vocal Music Performance, he continued his studies at Kansas State University, where he got his Master’s degree in Educational Administration and later his doctorate at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Lincoln. The economic impact of COVID-19 on the arts and learning sector has been devastating. As artists and educators struggle with the aftermath of the pandemic that has upended just about every aspect of our daily lives, let’s not forget that art is not a luxury and artists need grants and funding now more than ever, notes Mr. Heinz.
The Vulnerability of the Arts and Learning Sector Under COVID-19
Perhaps the major revelation that everyone came to realize trying to cope with the new conditions was that relying on government resources alone was not going to help. “As it is, federal and state resources are stretched thin and the responsibility of keeping the lights on in learning centers and art workshops lies squarely on the shoulders of philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and civil society organizations, says Ken Heinz of Weeping Water.
The problem with the pandemic is that its long-term effects may not be easy to put into perspective. However, one thing is clear, it has affected the underprivileged and underfunded sectors of society the most. For a sector that relies mostly on grants and donations such as the arts and learning sector, having the usual venues shut down puts the livelihood of many creative professionals at risk. Art workers along with artists find it hard to work and perform when the galleries, art centers, and museums are closed. No matter how vibrant the art sector used to be before the pandemic, the current conditions make it clear that this sector is just ecologically fragile. While government funding is crucial for its survival, this vital sector also needs all the private funding it can get to meet the costs, thrive, and continue to benefit the community. Its definitely a great time to explore online art classes as well.
Art is Not a Luxury
To say that the society has lost thousands of hours of exhibitions, art performances, events, workshops, and learning programs because of the pandemic shutdown is an understatement. “When you think about it,” Ken Heinz adds, “it’s not just the artists who lost a venue to perform, but also the general public who lost the opportunity to enjoy all these hours of art and performances. Far from being a non-essential part of our lives, art helps us understand ourselves and the world around us better.”
At the time of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for art to explain the “new normal” has never been greater. Live performances, pieces of art, and learning programs not only shed new light on the changing world but also make the audience reflect on the challenges around them and view life from a new and fresh angle. Whether the piece of art takes one back in time to ponder on history or forward to muse over the future, there’s no denying the importance of art in modern society.
Why Grants Matter
Another point that is often overlooked is that art and learning are both a major driving force behind economic development, explains Ken Heinz of Weeping Water. Despite that, many states have reduced their budgets for art agencies and sometimes eliminated them altogether. The way things are, many generations have grown up without the benefit of visits to museums, field trips to art galleries, and the occasional symphony experience.
While other sectors such as healthcare, public safety, and even roads get a lot of funding and public attention, the arts and learning sector is usually left out when legislators meet to discuss the budget. But artists and creative professionals have bills to pay and need funds to keep performing. That’s why grants matter now more than ever before. At the time when public attention is on the impact of COVID-19 on daily lives and small businesses, it’s critical not to forget that private donors and private funds can only go so far and public funding is still the main source of financing for the arts.
Ken Heinz on Resources for the Arts and Learning Sector
According to Ken Heinz, the resources available for artists and educators are numerous and cover both the public and private sectors. There are funding sources, government response and relief agencies, general art and non-profit sources, as well as digital tools for the art and learning sector to help performers and educators working from home.
Some funding agencies offer financial help to artists whose work and livelihood were affected by the COVID-19 shutdown. Other relief funds pay artists who put live performances online free of charge for all to watch. There are also grants for special art projects that connect people in the community together. The COVID-19 Community Response Fund awards grants between $25,000 and $50,000 to music programs targeting and serving the youth.
Teaching artists also have a funding source that provides financial and informational resources for artists across the country. Other agencies such as the Arts Administrators of Color Network support indigenous and black artists whose lives and livelihoods suffered because of the coronavirus.
The way Ken Heinz of Weeping Water sees it, the real change that COVI-19 has brought to the art and learning sector was how people began to take the virtual and online experiences more seriously. Exhibitions, learning programs, art education, and even performances are considering the online venue more and more as a viable financial resource that could continue well into the coming year if not the next few years.