Coronavirus

Miami support group launches fund to help visual artists during the coronavirus pandemic

Among the communities cut the deepest by the coronavirus pandemic: the visual arts.

COVID-19 caused the closing of exhibitions and galleries, and widespread layoffs in the cultural community.

A little relief is on the way.

Visual artists who live in Miami-Dade County can now apply for up to $500 in relief through the Oolite Arts Relief Fund for COVID-19. The fund, launching with $25,000 in seed funding, is designed to help cover lost income due to the cancellation of specific, scheduled employment — whether in the cultural arts sector or not — or a professional artistic opportunity, including commissions and exhibitions.

Several local artists welcomed the offer.

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“The last thing people are thinking about is buying art,” said Gonzalo Fuenmayor, a visual artist who is also a studio resident at Oolite Arts, a Miami-based resource group founded originally as Art Center/South Florida 36 years ago by potter Ellie Schneiderman. Oolite aims to help artists find free studio space, exhibition opportunities, support and programming.

Fuenmayor was to have some of his work at fairs in Brazil and Peru in the coming months. The events, like concert tours, movie openings, even album releases, were, of course, canceled. He is spending much of his time, alongside his wife, caring for their children, who are out of school.

“That’s lost studio time. It’s hard to make up,” Fuenmayor said.

How the fund was created

To create the fund, Oolite Arts said it is repurposing money saved from canceled Oolite Arts programming, to invest it back into local artists and the economy.

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“The arts are essential to Miami, and so are our artists. You can’t talk about Miami, you can’t experience Miami, without thinking of our cultural community. We need to make sure the people behind the art can live and work here year-round, and that includes during difficult times,” said Dennis Scholl, president and CEO of Oolite Arts.

Oolite Arts had set up a similar relief fund for artists after Hurricane Irma hit South Florida in September 2017, “and the need was great then,” Scholl said.

“I can’t even imagine what it will be now. Like many of our Miami-Dade residents, artists often live paycheck to paycheck, or gig to gig,” Scholl said. “After a hurricane, there is an end in sight. The power will come back on, life will return to normal. However, we don’t know when this pandemic will pass. That is going to put a lot of pressure on visual artists who are often part of the gig economy, which like so many segments of our community has ground to a virtual halt.

“Oolite’s goal with this funding is to try to help a number of our visual artists bridge the gap for the near term, for items like food and rent, until they are able to get back to work, or until broader assistance is available,” Scholl said.

How to tap the fund

To qualify for the fund, Scholl said, artists must:

Be a Miami-Dade resident;

Demonstrate lost income, either from the cultural sector or not, due to COVID-19;

Provide a curriculum vitae (CV) that shows they are a working artist.

The funding will be dispersed on a first come, first-served basis.

Applications will be accepted through April 16, 2020.

To apply: go to oolitearts.org/relieffund.

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