As productions and events are canceled or postponed, galleries are shuttered and everyone from artists to technicians to arts administrators deals with the potential and very likely loss of income, an effort is underway by Creative Pinellas and the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance to create an Arts Community Relief Fund.
“Nothing exists yet, but we are moving very, very quickly,” said Creative Pinellas Executive Director Barbara St. Clair, adding that the Pinellas Community Foundation, which has the expertise and technology to put the fund into motion, is also involved. “We believe that if we can create this fund, and get some funders to fund it, and we can work collectively, that we can really try to help the community as a whole. “
John Collins, Executive Director of the Arts Alliance, is creating data on potential losses from the current closures.
“After so long shining a light on how much the arts and culture bring to our economy, through our Arts and Economic Impact Reports through the years, it’s just tragic that I am figuring what a loss this will be for our artists and our arts businesses,” he said.
“I’m looking at how the related income – for example, when you go out to dinner before the theater – impacts the arts and cultural world and the related businesses.”
Collins estimates that his organization’s monthly ArtWalks bring $500,000 in indirect income to St. Petersburg annually. “Now I’m trying to figure out, what does that mean to Duncan McClellan Studio, to Leslie Curran’s galleries, to thestudio@620, to all of them.”
Without the survey, Collins said, “we won’t be counted. If we don’t add up all the losses, so to speak.
“And I‘m trying to separate us all, but I’ve heard nothing but the losses being incurred by sports teams. We want to make our case as well.
“Once we have the assessment, and we know what it is, we will have the right ask, if you will, for the creation of the arts relief fund.”
The idea formed during a Wednesday afternoon conference call between St. Clair, Collins, the Pinellas Community Foundation and representatives from several dozen local art and performing arts groups.
“The reason we had the call wasn’t to tell people what we were doing – because we don’t really yet know what we’re doing – but to hear what people wanted,” said St. Clair.
“And one of the things that came out very clearly was that some of the funding needed to be for individuals, and some of the funding needed to be for operations. People were very concerned on the call that they would be able to pay their staff through the end of the month, or the first week of April, but what happens next? Will they have to bring their staff down to part time? How do they keep healthcare?”
An advisory group has been formed, including members from all sectors of the arts community, to decide the next course of action. The group’s first teleconference is scheduled for Friday afternoon.
“We are also trying to understand the resources the Small Business Association is making available,” St. Clair explained. “There is a new emergency loan that has come out, that nonprofits can apply for. But your state has to be made eligible, and the last time I checked Florida wasn’t eligible. But I am told it will be soon.
“That will be a separate project. Certainly there will be a lot more funds available than through a fund that we create. But we do think it’s important to try to create a fund to help the artists and the arts organizations.”