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Artists In a Time of Global Pandemic (ASL & Captioned)
For US-Based Freelance Artists and Cultural Workers in all Disciplines
Looking for the COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resource List?
Hannah Fenlon: Hello, hi, everyone. Good evening and thank you for joining us in the midst of what is certainly a confusing, frustrating, and unnerving time. I'm Hannah Fenlon, I'm a freelance producer, current producing an Engagement Consultant for the Network of Ensemble Theaters, and former Associate Director of Conferences and Field-Wide Learning at Theatre Communications Group. My pronouns are she, her, and hers. I've had the privilege of spending time working in service of creating a healthier arts and culture community and it's an honor to continue doing so in this moment of crisis.
Before we go any further, I want to thank my brilliant colleagues and co-conspirators, Nicole Brewer, Abigail Vega, and Ann Marie Lonsdale. A truer group of advocates, artists, and friends would be hard to find. Their efforts, integrity, consistency, and good humor in this moment have just been absolutely incredible to witness. I also need to thank our dear friends at HowlRound Theatre Commons, including Vijay Mathew, who you'll hear from later on, JD Stokely, and Thea Rodgers, with whom we are so proud so collaborate in any capacity. HowlRound, if you don't know, has been leading the theatre field in re-imagining digital connectivity and gathering since its inception and they really just embody what it means to be a justice-oriented, nimble and responsive, community-first organization. We love you, HowlRound. Feel free to shoot some love at HowlRound on the internet.
Our ASL interpreters, Kristin Sienna Garcia and Barbie Parker Greenwater, and captioning service from the National Captioning Institute are absolutely vital to this conversation and we thank them for their amazing work. And finally, our brilliant group of facilitators and contributors, Some of whom tonight's producers know well, and others who were just introduced to us in the past few days and jumped on board without hesitation. These folks are leaders of great vision and wisdom and we will beam lots of gratitude their way throughout this call.
So five days ago, Nicole Brewer, a theatre artist and anti-racist facilitator, put out a call for solidarity-building to her online community. She asked if anyone wanted to collaborate on a Zoom call to address how individual artists were going to weather this crisis financially. Resources began to show up on the Facebook thread, and were quickly added to a crowd-sourced Google Doc. As some of you know, that Google Doc became overwhelmed with editors, making the depth of this crisis and its impact on freelancers incredibly clear. It was transitioned to a website, which has now seen nearly 250,000 unique viewers in over 150 countries. We continue to receive a daily stream of resource suggestions, and our hope is that this aggregator will lead folks to join preexisting efforts for collective action as well as to locate efforts that you can contribute to and find community within.
Tonight's event, it's our goal tonight to provide resources regarding some of the top issues and challenges individual artists are facing right now as well as to create space for us to recognize one another in a moment where we need our networks more than ever. Our only ask to you is that you lean into this experiment along with us with grace and with generosity. It's possible we won't get to every question and we won't be able to address every unique situation that has befallen our community as a result of this crisis but we promise you, we are going to do our best, and we are committed to continuing to share resources online and creating space for discussion. The sharing, rest assured, does not stop tonight, and we will all lift each other up as we go.
So we're looking forward to your feedback after the call, after our presentations, as to what was helpful to you and what else you'd like to learn. And just so you know, you're in really good company. Roughly 700 viewers, and I think that's a low stat, we'll give you the official stat at the end, are currently tuning in. So we invite you to tweet or post, write your name, tell us where you're listening in from and #ArtistsResource, that's artists plural, resource, and HowlRound, H-O-W-L-R-O-U-N-D, and then tune in to those tags throughout. You can follow the thread to get a sense of who we are and where we are and what's going on with us.
So I'm going to pass the mic to my colleagues and friends Nicole Brewer and Viviana Vargas momentarily but before I do, I'd like to remind you to text questions to our WhatsApp line, which you can do by going to the HowlRound listing for this event and clicking Send Message or by adding 1-917-686-3185 to your WhatsApp contacts and sending directly. Please try, if you can, to include the category for your question in all caps before you write it just to help us stay organized when we get to the Q&A. We're reserving time for that Q&A after we hear from all contributors, but feel free to send questions as you have them, as they come up. And if you're communicating anything else throughout the evening, whether it's kudos or feedback or resources or just general thoughts on your social isolation and quarantine, please post and tweet them publicly with the hashtags, again, #ArtistsResource and #HowlRound. So with that and without further ado I'm going to pass it over to the inimitable Nicole and Viviana.
Nicole Brewer: Hey! Hey again. This is wild, hey Viv.
Viviana Vargas: Hello.
Nicole: So grateful to be in this space with you facilitating this digital convening.
Nicole: I see this request. We're just going to pause for a second. We see a request about an echo.
Viviana: Not sure how to... Headphones. Is this better?
Nicole: Is the echo still present?
Vijay Mathew: It's better.
Nicole: Thank you, Vijay. Okay, so, I'm Nicole Brewer, and I'm going to just take a moment, if we could, to do a land acknowledgment, and as we've gathered digitally, I want to be in solidarity with the indigeneity of the land and that particular practice around stolen people and stolen land. And so, I'm going to be naming some of the Indigenous peoples who the facilitators and panelists are gathered on and I'm then I'm going to invite... I have audio but my video is frozen.
Vijay: We see and hear you.
Viviana: I'm frozen, too.
Nicole: After I honor the indigeneity of the land by naming these Indigenous tribes, I will open the space and invite for the panelists to also say where they're calling in from and whose ancestral lands they're on. So starting with myself, Nicole Brewer, I am right now calling you from the ancestral homelands of the Yamassee and the Muscogee, also known as Savannah, Georgia. I'd also like to take a moment to just honor HowlRound, and say on behalf of the staff of the HowlRound Theatre Commons at Emerson College, they wish to respectfully acknowledge that their offices are situated on lands stolen from its original holders, the Massachusett and the Wampanoag people, and they wish to pay their respects to those people past, present and future. And then on behalf of Avita, I want to name the Matinecock tribe in Long Island. And I'll open it to the panelists to say where they're calling in from.
Viviana: Hello friends. My name in Kichwa is Yurasapi, my name is also Viviana. I'm calling from farther south than a lot of folks on the call, I think, from Bogotá, Colombia, with over 100 recognized tribes and groups including Achagua, Embera, Wayuu, Pascua Yaqui, thank you.
Lori Goldstein: I am Lori Goldstein, I'm an employment local from Chicago, Illinois.
Dan Feldman: I'm Dan Feldman, I'm the executive director of Lawyers for the Creative Arts in Chicago, Illinois.
Ijeoma Oluo: I'm Ijeoma Oluo and I am a writer and speaker in the Seattle area, Duwamish territory.
Claudia Alick: This is Claudia Alick, executive producer of CALLING UP Justice calling in from the territory of the Ohlone peoples, the people are still alive.
Laurie Baskin: This is Laurie Baskin from Theatre Communications Group working remotely from Northern Westchester on the lands of the Lenape and Wappinger.
Carl Atiya Swanson: I'm Carl Atiya Swanson, I'm the Associate Director of Springboard for the Arts calling from Minnesota which is the homeland of the Dakota and Ojibwe people.
Carrie Cleveland: I'm Carrie Cleveland from CERF+, the Education and Outreach Manager, I am calling from Montpelier, Vermont, and we are on the land of the Wabanaki Confederacy and the Abenaki.
Avita Delerme: This is Avita, calling from Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Anacostans whose descendants belong to the Piscataway peoples.
Amy Smith: Amy Smith calling from Philadelphia, which is Leni Lenape land.
Brian Herrera: Brian Herrera calling from Princeton, New Jersey, also in Leni Lenape ancestral lands.
Ann Marie Lonsdale: Ann Marie Lonsdale calling from Oakland, California, which is Ohlone land.
Hannah Fenlon: Hannah Fenlon calling from Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is Pueblo land.
Abigail Vega: This is Abigail Vega calling in from Coahuiltecan lands which is now known to some as San Antonio, Texas.
Nicole: Beautiful. So I invite us to take a breath and then I'll turn it over to Viv.
Viviana: Yes, thank you. I also wanted, we wanted to just quote, paraphrase a little bit for time, another part of the land acknowledgment written by Adrian Wong of SpiderWebShow in Ontario, holding an event in partnership with HowlRound as well that has done digitally, and I think just to frame what we're working on here. So, and since our activities are shared digitally to the internet, let's also take a moment to consider the legacy of colonization embedded within the technologies, structures, and ways of thinking we use every day. We are using equipment and high-speed internet not available in many Indigenous communities. Even the technologies that are central to much of the arts we are here to talk about, leave significant carbon footprints contributing to changing climates that are disproportionately affecting Indigenous peoples worldwide. I invite you join me and acknowledge all of this as our shared responsibility to make good of this time and for each of us to consider our roles in reconciliation, decolonization, and allyship, and I think also thinking about our situation right now, as well, what we're talking about, in relation to Indigenous communities in the US, and across the world.
Nicole: Thank you, Viv. And so, I want to talk about technology and the technological lags that can happen when you are meeting digitally. And so, in order for our connection that we're building not to be interrupted when a lag happens, I would invite you all to just do a body scan, if the video freezes, right, to see where the last thing that you heard is sitting with you, to ask that part of your body to release. Or you could do something just in terms of writing down the last thing that you heard. Whatever it is, we're asking that you stay present for this time that we've gathered together instead of allowing aggravation or anxiety or other feelings to bubble up when the technology isn't performing as it would if we were in person.
Viviana: Great, and along with that, if you are writing and taking notes, or if not, I invite us all to take a moment to self-reflect, perhaps set intentions for our time together these next few hours. I would love to ask you to reflect, maybe write down these on a sheet of paper, what would you like to take with you? Promote, uplift, in these next two hours together. What would you like to take with you, bring forth? What is your intention for this time together? And then also on the flipside, what would you like to let go of? What do you not want to take with you into this time? And later on, I think we can even expand out after the call, and I'd love to quote Reena Wolfe of Eleventh Social who shared with me these prompts yesterday, actually, and kind of really go well with what I was planning for us here. What are you ready to let go of? And what would you like to be poured into you? So, yeah, just inviting us into this call to take a moment to set intentions into all this information we're about to receive and process and share.
Hannah: I just want to also come in and say that the links to resources are going to be tweeted out by HowlRound so please check Twitter for that digital information, as well. And then we want to move into, can I hand it over to you, Viv, around this reflective five?
Viviana: Sure, it was on mute. So throughout the call, in between each of the speakers, we'll be taking just a breath, basically, in between each, to be able to fully receive and accept all the information we're getting. Allow us to be full and then be ready to receive the next speaker in the best way we can. So, these moments of reflection of communal breaths we'll be taking together are to do that and also to take a moment to reflect on the specific communities that were here to support in terms of freelance artists. So we'll be naming specific marginalized communities that we want to uplift into the space and for each of these communities there are additional resources, as Nicole said, that will be named at the end in terms of different GoFundMe fundraisers or places you can donate or support with your time. So we'll start off reflecting specifically right now. Let's take a moment, disabled freelance artists, we want to uplift in this space, reflect and go forth. So I'd love for us to take a breath, a communal breath together. We'll inhale on five, hold for five, and release for five. And also, you're welcome to do this however is comfortable for you. So inhale, one, two, three, four, five. Hold, five, four, three, two, one. Release, five, four, three, two, one. Thank you.
Nicole: Thank you, Viv, for that practice. So now we're going to hand it off to Avita who will lead us in our first section on legal advocacy advice for freelance artists. And note that when, again, we as panelists cite a resource, it'll be tweeted out vis-a-vis HowlRound, so look for it there. Avita?
Avita: Hi everyone. Well first, I want to thank you all for tuning in and listening tonight. And I really want to thank the organizers for taking time to put this together as a resource for supporting all the artists and freelancers that are affected. And I want to first start by saying here tonight that I'm here to be a support but of course this is not legal advice and I can't give legal advice tonight but I'm here to talk a little bit about contracts and various provisions that may be affecting you during this time and the work that you do. So we can talk today about some negotiation points that are helpful for you and what you're doing and might be useful moving forward.
So let's talk a little bit about why this is becoming an issue right now. So a lot of companies and organizations now are struggling to keep up with the evolving landscape that is relating to the employment issues right now so they're having a hard time making decisions about whether events can actually legally happen at this particular time. So in New York, for instance, Cuomo just Thursday announced a ban on gatherings of 500 people or more across the state for the foreseeable future. So it's not clear to us when that will end, if it will end, and the CDC just today, I believe, just urged a nationwide halt of gatherings for more than fifty people for at least the next eight weeks. So this is, of course, leaving many arts organizations in flux about whether or not they should be postponing events, canceling events, and we're now trying to make decisions about which personnel needs to be on site, who can work from home, who can't work from home, and organizations are trying to make decisions about their obligations with independent contractors and freelancers about their programming and what needs to happen.
So that being said, how does this affect arts, the artists, freelancers, from a legal perspective? The first thing I think freelancers need to know is that they are protected in New York by the Freelance Isn't Free Act. And I do believe that we can tweet out some information about that act. If you are a freelancer in New York City, you are protected by the Freelance Isn't Free Act. And it is something that was passed in 2017 and freelancer services are sometimes commonly referred to as moonlighting, consulting, subcontracting, contracting, gigs, projects, many different things, and it essentially protects freelancers, right? So that freelancers have the right to a few things. So I'm going to go through the act a little bit today so that you have an understanding of what it protects you from and what you have the rights to.
Essentially, all contracts that are worth $800 or more have to be in writing. So this includes all agreements between you and whoever hired you that equal $800 at one time or that are worth $800 within a four-month period or 120 days. So the written contract must spell out the work that you are performing and it must show what exactly you are being paid for the work and how you will be paid and when you will be paid. And you must keep a copy of that contract and the person or entity that is hiring you must also keep a copy of that contract. And if it does not actually include the hiring date or the payment date, then they must pay you within thirty days of the day that you complete the work. And if they don't comply with that law and they're in violation, then there's many different ways that you can try to remedy that. You can try to resolve it informally by talking to them and putting a contract in place. You can speak directly with the hiring party about it or there's also other tools, you can go to the Office of Labor Policy Standards and there's actually a complaint process. You can actually file a civil action in court or you can do a combination of that. So that's one way to go about it. If you don't actually live in New York, there are other states that have similar laws but they're not the Freelance Isn't Free Act and I do believe California may enacting something similar or they have, so it'd be worthwhile to look into that.
Next, after that, we can talk about what's called the the Force Majeure and cancellation clauses in your contract and you've probably been hearing about this quite a bit since the entire coronavirus epidemic or pandemic as it's called now. If you do have an agreement for your services right now, your hiring party may be talking to you about the Force Majeure language. And so what does that mean? It sounds really fancy. In French it means superior force so it's a common contract clause that has the intention to free both parties from liability or the obligation of performing the contract when something happens that is beyond the actual reasonable intention or control of the parties. So usually that's something like an epidemic. So if it's helpful, real-life situation, if you entered into a contract with somebody and you couldn't have possibly foreseen something like an epidemic, then it excuses you from performing and excuses the other party from paying you from performing because it's not possible for you to have expected something like this to occur and that's what a Force Majeure clause is supposed to address, the intention is to protect both parties from any kind of obligation from arising. So it's supposed to cover events and circumstances like war, strike, riot, Act of Government or an Act of God or an epidemic or pandemic like coronavirus that prevents you from actually performing your contract.
So I suggest that if you do have a contract, you take a look at your contract to see if it does have a Force Majeure clause in there to see if you're covered or if it exists. And if it does, usually it should say exactly what it covers and if it does indeed cover an epidemic like the coronavirus. It's supposed to be construed very, very narrowly and it's not always a total release from the hiring party paying you. So if you have pre-paid fees or expenses, certain things that can be negotiated and excluded, then you may be able to still recover some money, even though there's a Force Majeure clause, so I would just read it very carefully to see exactly what it covers. I will note that oftentimes Force Majeure clauses include what's called an Act of Government and here the Act of Government in New York has effectively made it impracticable to perform many acts of government for the performance so—
Avita’s Child: Hi mommy, hi mommy.
Avita: This is a real-life event. Your child actually coming.
Nicole: Supporting that. Yay!
Avita: Sorry guys. This literally just happened. It's like real life.
Nicole: No problem.
Avita: Sometimes Act of Government is called a Force Majeure event and when that happens, it's actually covered because New York actually shut down so in instances like that, it will stop the contract from being something that needs to be performed. So in instances like that, unfortunately, sorry, I'm going to try to put her down. You will want to make, sorry, you'll want to just double-check your Force Majeure clause. The other thing to take a look at are cancellation clauses. Sometimes in agreements there are cancellation clauses that allows both parties to end the contract as long as certain terms can be met and in those cases I do encourage you to check the cancellation policy to see if they're relevant for you.
My advice to freelancers at this point, if you do have multiple event contracts with your hiring party or third-party or venue, understand how canceling these events or contracts will impact future events, consider working things out for the longer run. So for example, discuss the possibility of postponement. Ask for payment now so if there are out-of-pocket expenses, for example, that you've incurred, ask for those payments now because they may be interested in continuing that relationship with you or interested in crediting you now for a future gig because if you've had a long-standing relationship, they might be interested in that. But make sure whatever you do, put everything leading up to this event in writing especially conversations related to this contract and arrangement.
I am not unfortunately a labor attorney so I cannot speak too much to filing for unemployment. I do believe we have another attorney online who does work in that field and she may be able speak a little more intelligently on it, but I do know unemployment insurance is temporary income for eligible workers who lose their jobs to no fault of their own. So you may be eligible for it but you must be ready, willing and able to work, and actively looking for work during each week that you are claiming for the benefits and those who do qualify can receive a weekly benefit for up to twenty-six full weeks during a one-year period. And I think there's another attorney on the line who may be able to speak a little bit more intelligently to that and answer questions a little bit later. So thank you guys so much for having me and for inviting me to speak on such an important topic at such an important time.
Nicole: Thank you so much. So appreciative of you and you're multitasking, right. Really no apologies. That's what it is to be in community and to be supportive of one another, you know?
Avita: Thank you, thank you.
Nicole: So I wanted to see if any other lawyers wanted to chime in just now before we head forward. So I want to pause for that. Let some folks unmute themselves if they want. Okay. Lori Goldstein, did you want to chime in at this moment?
Lori: Hi, it's Lori. Can you hear me?
Nicole: I can hear you.
Lori: Sorry, I couldn't find you guys for a minute. Yes, I'm an employment lawyer. I can talk about unemployment, although it is state-specific so it really depends on your state unemployment laws, but most of them are pretty similar and do provide for up to twenty-six weeks. In terms of the COVID situation, if you've been diagnosed as being infected or you have to stay home to take care of a spouse, a parent or a child who has it or because there's any government-imposed quarantine, then you would be considered covered by unemployment and they will waive, at least in most states, they will waive the requirement that you be seeking work and certifying every week that you're looking for work because you're basically waiting for, if you're in a current situation, you're waiting for your employer to resume your employment so you don't have to keep looking for other work. However, you can't just quit your job because you're concerned about the disease. You can't just quit your job because you feel like you have to stay home with a child. That would not be considered a reason attributable to the employer. But under the new federal law, if it's passed, depending on the senate, there may be extended benefits that would apply to having to be home because of school closures.
Nicole: Thank you so much for jumping in, Lori. I appreciate that. We're tending to community needs. It wasn't necessarily on the agenda that way, so I so appreciate you, thank you so much.
Lori: My pleasure.
Nicole: And so now we'd like to transition on to Claudia.
Claudia: Oh okay. Hello, can you hear me?
Claudia: Excellent. I don't see my video up but I'm just going to keep talking and you let me know if I'm doing all right. So I'm going to be talking just a little bit very quickly about some best practices for moving your work or your gathering to online spaces. So my work is transmedia and when I use the term transmedia, I'm using it to talk about work that is living in physically embodied space as well as in digital space. It's an extension of the narrative, not a replacement of the narrative, and it can be experienced in a synchronous way or in a live way. So it can be livestreaming or can perhaps be content that people can enjoy throughout time. And I give an example of New Paradise Laboratories. Look at the work that they're doing, they have a really great practice that sort of mixes work that lives in a digital space as well as work that lives in a physical space.
Another example of projects that I've worked on, you should talk to people who do international development. I did a project called Shakespeare Iraq where I collaborated with artists in Iraq and we communicated through videoconferencing software. At that time it was Skype, which was great for one-on-one conversations, and then we did crowd sourced fundraising so they created a video, we put it up on Indiegogo and that's how we raised the money for that. So I'm talking about things that many of us are already aware of and familiar with.
Another example of this type of work is something that I did in 2018 with the Protest Plays Project and it was called #TheatreActionGunControl. So my way of supporting that project, I took a short play by Idris Goodwin, I asked him for permission to share it widely, he said yes, I shared it with a bunch of folks and I said please share this in any digital format that you would like to. And one person took this digital play and created a Twitter account for it and each tweet was a line from the play. Another person just did a simple YouTube video, one camera right in front of the computer, so easy to do. Another company, I think it was Company One in Boston, they actually did something pretty cool that was like black and white, it had a couple of different shots they added some background music. And then another group of students, it was about twenty students in the classroom, and they just sat down and somebody recorded it with their cell phone. So there's a lot of different ways to create this work and share this work.
I would also recommend that you reach out to the disabled community. My own practice has been one where I've been using digital and mixed formats for years and years because it allows me to collaborate across space and time nationally. But for the past two years, I have been deeply investing in the disabled community and disabled practices for as much accessibility as possible, specifically because sometimes I can't physically get to a space. I have been doing a project with Mia Amir and I'm realizing I didn't put his name down here in the notes but his name is Rue Delisin, I believe is his name. And they've been doing a project called Unsettling Dramaturgy. We've been meeting for about a year online, and it is a group that is a mix of Crip and Indigenous dramaturgs. I'll provide a link that will allow you to see some of the ways we've been gathering dramaturgically through video. Again, I just recommend that you experiment and also learn from what other people have done.
When you're gathering online, the planning process is going to be different. You're going to need more planning because you won't have the shortcut language that we've been creating for so many years. You're going to need to have more communication and confirmation of people being able to access what you're doing and also familiarity or yeah, familiarity with those platforms. So focus on the goal of your gathering and then design the ways to reach that goal. Your platform is only as successful as your community's ability to use it. So sometimes you're going to have to slow your process down and perhaps do a session that's just people playing with the platform. We have to remember that we all have different access to technology. Some of us are in regions where the internet is not as strong. Some of us don't have the same kind of technological equipment so we're all going to be using what we have.
The last thing I want to say before I let this go is you need to keep creating income. So I have colleagues who busk on Twitter and they do a Twitter thread and they have a bunch of clever things in it or they do some fun activities on Instagram and then they have their CashApp or they have Venmo app, that's a way to get income. You can start a Patreon account and share your content in that way. You can also have a YouTube channel and get sponsorship but there's a lot of different ways for you to be able to have your audience support your work as you're sharing it in these digital ways. I'm going to pass the mic to Brian Herrera now.
Nicole: Just before we do that, thank you so much, Claudia. I so appreciate you. I just want to take a second to also do a reflective five around Asian-Americans. And give us that moment.
Claudia: Would you please?
Nicole: Asian-American freelance artists reflective five. And so I invite you to inhale, one, two, three, four, five. Hold, five, four, three, two, one, release. One, two, three, four, five. Brian?
Brian: Hello. I'm activating my video in a moment. So thank you so much. I'm grateful, my name is Brian Herrera, he, him, his, plus. And I'm grateful to be here. Thank you for the opportunity to join this conversation. I should say at the outset that I didn't arrive with any particular resources or techniques to offer, rather, I really just hoped to lift something to keep in mind as we proceed in these uncertain times. I work between two industries, higher education and the non-profit theatre and over the last ten days or so, I've marveled at how passionately my colleagues in both sectors have lept into the uncertainty of these dizzying days, how they worked with intelligence and humanity and creativity to engage the myriad of problems that this shutdown has caused but this should be no surprise. This is exactly what principals, teachers, engaged theatremakers and administrators do. We work within often rigid limitations to create opportunities for others especially for others to come together so that they can access transformative experiences.
But even as I've marveled at this extraordinary generosity usually from the peculiar social distance that is social media, I've also observed a particular predisposition, a habit, a bias, as it has emerged again and again. We're often holding, those of us who are often new to this kind of work are often holding tight to the promised comforts of what Claudia referenced briefly as this synchronous, when we must also engage the realities of the asynchronous. What do I mean by this? A synchronous model of engagement is what in some ways those of us right here hearing my voice right now are doing, folks gathering together at the same time in the shared space of a particular venue to engage a common experience. An asynchronous model is what will happen when folks return to the recording of this call to access this particular conversation sometime in the near or distant future. Neither mode is necessarily better or worse but they are distinct and, in our enthusiasm to take our work online, we must remain alert to the real differences between synchronous and asynchronous modes of engagement if we are to sustain ourselves and our communities through this yet indefinite shutdown.
Remember, I speak as a college professor working in an industry that for the first time is shifting abruptly and on mass to online or remote instruction. With just a few days' warning, thousands upon thousands of college instructors are moving their classes and the working conditions of hundreds of thousands of students to remote online platforms. Indeed, Zoom University is already a somewhat snarky trending hashtag. Yet Zoom is not a place, it's a tool. And just as we would not presume that a carefully crafted touring performance could move from one venue to another without a thorough investigation of both, the new limits and different opportunities of each successive venue, so too must we be intentional when we adapt our existing creative practices which so often prioritize the synchronous rewards of convening in shared time and space as we move them to online platforms.
Many of us on this call, if only for the last handful of minutes, are somewhat familiar with the limits of reportedly interactive real-time platforms like Zoom. Glitches of connectivity, and signal strength, echoes, learning curves as folks accustom themselves or sometimes don't bother to the limitations of the platform, et cetera, the list goes on. Yet, as this call also demonstrates, platforms like Zoom can be extraordinary tools when used to connect collaborators to engage specific tasks in somewhat real-time but it's not a plug and play process, you can't just press Go or press Zoom and expect a synchronous session like this one to stream seamlessly. It inevitably requires some or many of the collaborators also engage a measure of usually asynchronous preparation for the encounter.
This is quite simply what I'm here to preach. As we rush to solve this new problem, as we rush to share our skills, to figure out how to make this work, and how to make it work well, we must think rigorously yet creatively about whether synchronous or asynchronous tools are best suited for our particular tasks. Speaking personally, I've opted to forego synchronous instruction for the remainder of my spring semester, choosing to prioritizing instead a constellation of asynchronous tools like rebooting my own public facing podcast, having students commenting independently on public facing platforms like the New Play Exchange, while reserving synchronous tools like Zoom for class project meetings and individual or small group consultations. This is how I feel these tools are best used to serve the particular project of my courses this semester. Indeed, amidst of many disparate pressures of this complicated time, it is on each of us to assess the tools available to us and then make our own decisions about which tools are best for our particular tasks, and also to advocate for and support our colleagues in strategizing their best way forward.
The pressures of this moment might be encouraging us to go ahead, just move everything, just stream online, and I'm here to say to make sure there's at least one voice in the crowd that say, yes, use synchronous online tools as you feel they serve and sustain your practice but stay alert to other, perhaps more asynchronous tools that might be as useful as sustaining. We are looking toward a time of brisk discovery, one that will present as yet unknown challenges. So, I'm here to say that as we might be inclined to just move everything online, balance here, as in everything, balance is essential. Thanks. I'm now turning it over to Vijay.
Nicole: Thank you, Brian. Vijay, are you there? All right. So... I'm going to turn this over, I'm going to be quiet, turn it over to Viv.
Viviana: Yes, I think we are going to move on and maybe go back if we get Vijay. But another reflective breath. We'd like to center, uplift trans freelance artists, specifically trans freelance artists of color for this one. So we can go ahead and inhale, one, two, three, four, five. Hold, five, four, three, two, one. Release, five, four, three, two, one. And now we're going to move into discussing support and awareness national advocacy efforts starting with Ouida. I'll pass it over.
Ouida Maedel: Ouida.
Ouida: Hi, everyone. Thank you for including me in this vital conversation. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share what resources I can with you. Though the National Endowment for the Arts primarily funds organizations, many members of our program staff including myself have worked as freelancers at some point in our careers. We know that there are more than five million Americans who make their livelihoods in the broader arts and culture sector nationwide and individual artists and freelancers are particularly vulnerable at this time. My fiancé is an actor and a visual artist so finding ways to support individuals are always on my mind, now more than ever. We are here to support you in any way that we can.
First, I want to make sure that those of you in the literary arts know about the few grants that we still have available for individual artists. We offer creative writing fellowships for career development and translation project grants for writers seeking to translate literary works from other languages into English. The deadlines for these programs are in January and March of every year and I encourage you to go to our website arts.gov to learn more.
Second, I want to encourage each of you to go to your regional arts organizations, your state arts agencies and to your local arts agencies to seek support. As mandated by Congress, 40% of the Arts Endowments budget goes to state arts agencies each year and many of them have individual artist grants. The development of emergency grant programs for individual artists who have lost work due to this extraordinary situation is underway at some of these agencies. Their staff members are there to help you so even though it can be intimidating, I encourage you to reach out to them. You can go to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies to find their state and regional arts agency's directory. Americans for the Arts has a local arts agency dashboard that might be a helpful search tool for local arts agencies in your area. There are thousands nationwide and you can find those agencies that are recent grantees on the National Endowment for the Arts website.
Third, the National Endowment for the Arts is always looking for grant review panelists and we are making a special effort to engage freelancers and panel service at this time. Panelists are compensated for their service. We do have a lot of criteria to meet regarding the composition of our grant review panels but if you would like to learn more, you can email me at [email protected]. That's [email protected].
I also wanted to share that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that was before the Senate today does includes some provisions that might assist individual artists including individual tax credits for sick and family leave, for self-employed individuals, and additional emergency funding to states for unemployment compensation. Laurie Baskin from Theatre Communications Group will share more details. Emergency funding particularly for artists or arts organizations has not yet been a part of any federal relief package but some of you might be eligible for the disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 from the Small Business Administration, if you operate as an LLC or a non-profit.
While the National Endowment for the Arts staff are not permitted to advocate for ourselves or on behalf of our agency, we do have the ability to inform Congress. Our senior leadership is actively working to make sure our contacts are aware of the reality of how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the arts and entertainment industries in all fifty states, in U.S. territories, and in every congressional district in the nation, including freelance workers and individual artists. We are collecting facts, testimonials ,and sharing ways sector-specific relief might be able to help. We want to hear from you so we can share your story.
Please never hesitate to reach out to me even if you want to talk. Again, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. That's [email protected]. I appreciate your patience as this is a particularly high-volume time for staff at the National Endowment for the Arts which of course has been exacerbated by this crisis but I promise I'll get back to you as soon as I can and because I forgot to introduce myself when I first started talking, I'll do it now. I'm Ouida Maedel, I'm a Theatre and Musical Theatre Specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts, she/her/hers. And I look forward to being in touch with anybody who wants to be, thank you.
Nicole: Thank you so much, Ouida. Laurie Baskin.
Laurie: Hi, everyone, yes, I'm Laurie Baskin. Can you hear me okay?
Nicole: Yes, Laurie, go on.
Laurie: Good, good, all right. I'm director of research policy and collective action at the Theatre Communications Group and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I'm very grateful to be included in this webinar and to connect with all of you though I do want to acknowledge what a trying and uncertain time this is. TCG has tried to move very quickly to respond to and even anticipate some of the needs of the field. We held a webinar on 6 March and I think that that link will be tweeted out. Panelists included Paul Christy from Oregon Shakespeare Festival sharing their emergency resources and experience as a result of the wildfires that happened out west. Several people from Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage lent some experience as to insurance coverage and other issues. Dr. Charles Nolan, a husband of a theatre trustee and himself an epidemiologist, joined the call. Molly Quinlin Hayes from Arts Ready, joined us, and of course as did Greg Reiner from the NEA. There was a lot of good information on that call and it is posted online on the TCG Circle so you'll get that link. TCG has also assembled a list of resources, I think, so have we all, but ours is there, it is posted on the TCG Circle and we hope that will be helpful.
On the advocacy front, TCG is a founding member of the Performing Arts Alliance and closely collaborates with a number of other national performing arts service organizations through that coalition. We also participate as a member of the Cultural Advocacy Group and so we are in regular contact with the broader arts advocacy community at the federal level. Last Wednesday, TCG sent an action alert synchronized with other sister organizations. This alert focused on the opportunity that as Congress and the administration considered some form of federal economic assistance, theatres and theatre artists were urged to speak up to ensure that any federal relief package would include the entire non-profit arts sector. That action alert is still open and to date nearly 900 people have generated over 2,800 messages to Capitol Hill. That is quite powerful and it breaks all records. If you are interested in signing up to receive TCG action alerts, please visit tcg.org, view the drop-down menu under Advocacy and click Action Alerts. You'll find the link to sign up at the top of that page.
This past Saturday I sent another action alert that included some information about what the House-passed relief package included and I'll share that with you now though several pieces of this have been referenced by Lori and then by Ouida just now. But here's what I take to be the full range of what's in this package that is also now before the Senate. Mandated emergency paid leave for employees for qualified sick leave. Family and medical leave and to care for a child whose school has closed. Refundable payroll tax credits for required emergency paid leave provided by employers with fewer than 500 employees and non-profits are eligible for relief. Refundable individual tax credits for leave taken by self-employed workers. That's most of you, I think. For qualified sick leave, caring for a family member, or caring for a child whose school has closed. Emergency funding to states for unemployment compensation and additional provisions related to nutrition assistance and cost-free coronavirus testing provisions for the uninsured. We do not expect that this will be the only federal aid package related to coronavirus.
This was a very quick package meant to address certain issues. We are very hopeful and expect that there will be another stimulus package more like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was passed back in 2009. TCG will join with other federal art service organizations to advocate for the arts and individual artists to be eligible for any such stimulus package. Toward that end, TCG has also distributed a survey to member theatres to gather information about the impact of the coronavirus on their operations and it also includes questions related to individual artists. So far, we have responses from about fifty theatres out of our 500 and we'll keep pushing for more.
The most important tool for us in our advocacy work is your stories. We know that the impact of the current environment will deeply affect individual artists. Please share your stories with me. I will add that information to our advocacy efforts and I'm sharing my email address. [email protected]. L for Laurie, Baskin like the ice cream. L-B-A[email protected]. And we're all in this together. Thank you for having me tonight and to the organizers. This is a great opportunity, thank you.
Nicole: Thank you so much, Laurie Baskin. I just want to drop in and, one, breathe; two, say hey, we as freelancers, this is a moment for us to repurpose our hustle skills, our promoting skills and our marketing skills to advocacy skills. We to advocate for ourselves on a personal level. We have to advocate on a citywide level, we have to advocate on a state-level, and we have to advocate on a national level. And when I say have to, I don't use those words lightly. I really mean that we are an invisible population and we have to do the work of making sure that people know what this impact is. And what our value is in this moment. So, I wanted to drop in and share that. And as we move to our next session, section, excuse me, we'll take a time for a reflective five. And this time we want to center Indigenous freelance artists. And so, inhale, one, two, three, four, five. Hold, five, four, three, two, one. Exhale, one, two, three, four, five. Ann Marie, I'm calling you forward!
Ann Marie: Hi everybody. My name is Ann Marie Lonsdale, I use she/her/hers pronouns. I'm a consultant and arts worker with a background in theatre, dance, experimental live performance, producing and presenting, and in artist services, grantmaking, and professional development for individual artists and small companies. So I think that's a lot of the folks on this call tonight. You might notice that many of us who are facilitating tonight are theatre artists or adjacent to the performance field and that's true, that's how we know each other, but we are working diligently to find and share resources for artists in all disciplines. We hope that you will be patient with us as we recognize that bias that we have and work towards identifying and sharing resources for artists in all different fields.
Tonight, we wanted to share some ideas and information about emergency funding for independent artists for folks who need support immediately or who need support while they sort out government benefits from state and federal government, as Laurie just described. We want to give you a sense of the landscape of possibilities for you moving forward. Ouida has already shared some amazing ideas about public funding which was so helpful. Thank you. Please keep in mind that you need to work with your tax professionals to understand the income implications of any grants or funding that you receive. And a rule, we encourage folks to set aside 20 to 25% of any income that they receive from a grant or fellowship to cover federal, state, and local tax. And that those taxes are not the same as paying into unemployment or paying into the disability fund in your particular state or locality. We don't have time tonight to get deep into these details of self-employment tax practice and law, so I'm going to encourage you to contact your lawyer or accountant and ask them specific questions about your specific situation. They can give you that individualized advice. And if you don't have access to those types of services, let us know and we can try to make some recommendations. There are a number of volunteer lawyers for the arts organizations listed on our site and we can try to make other resources available in the coming weeks and we're also hoping to organize another webinar on the topic in the coming days.
Please also know that when you are applying for emergency funding, you typically need to have some kind of documentation, such as contracts or receipts, in order to prove that you lost income and incurred expenses for which you need to be reimbursed. You also probably want to have an artist resume or website or both which substantiates your artistic practice. And another best practice is that we want to encourage you to read the guidelines for each funding opportunity that you apply for carefully and be reasonable about what might apply to you. But first and foremost, we want you to know that you are not alone and that many amazing and resourceful people in the field care deeply about what's happening to our freelance art and artist communities and these are folks working in all disciplines, working toward solutions, and we are going to talk about some of them presently.
It's important to understand that many foundations and even some government agencies are prohibited by their nonprofit charters from disbursing funds to individual artists, and so they have to give funds away through intermediaries, smaller nonprofits, local arts councils, re-granters, service organizations. So I'm going to encourage you to look at agencies that already give funds to individual artists first. Now, we're going to hear from a few of those. And we have several amazing organizations that make emergency grants and are making emergency grants in direct response to COVID-19. And first up, I'd like to invite Carl Swanson from Springboard for the Arts in Minnesota.
Carl: Hello. My name is Carl Atiya Swanson, thanks so much for having me today. I use he, him, his pronouns. I'm associate director at Springboard for the Arts and Springboard is an artist-led community and economic development organization that's based in Fergus Falls in St. Paul, Minnesota. We do our work in and around Minnesota and nationally share resources and consult and our work is about cultivating vibrant communities by connecting artists with the resources they need to make a living and a life. And in this moment, one of the resources that artists need is direct cash assistance to cover lost income from this wave of cancellations that we're seeing from the coronavirus pandemic.
We at Springboard, we have a long-standing personal emergency relief fund that we're expanding to meet this moment in this crisis. The fund offers up to $500 in short-term relief and is limited to artists in Minnesota. I'm sharing what we do as a model for others. We fielded so many information requests about our program over the last five days. And so for our part, we operate on the broadest definitions of who is an artist and we're working to meet the immediate needs of the artists in our community as we plan for the future.
When we announced the expansion of our emergency relief fund on Thursday last week, Springboard initially transferred $10,000 from our reserves and budget to support this effort and within the first three days of launching the coronavirus response fund, we've had over 130 requests from artists. So we launched this fundraiser to expand that pool and keep funding more requests. We expect requests to keep on going up as this continues on and we're going to keep on fundraising to meet that demand. Springboard is not taking any overheard from the fundraiser, it's being distributed directly to artists. And for us, we have an internal review process and are working to get funds out as quickly and directly as possible.
So that's both the scary in that enormous need and the heartening in that people are stepping up and we're actively fundraising to bring in more partners and donors to support artists and contractors and freelancers and creative workers. And the emergency relief fund is a way to meet those immediate needs of artists and creative workers in the short-term of this crisis, but it's also a real-time survey of the kinds of work being lost and the financial impacts that are being caused by this disruption. As we've heard from other speakers, we're in a moment where we need to advocate for independent contractors and creative workers and really bring that population forward. So this is valuable data that we're working with at this moment as we advocate for structural change in support for artists and we're working to be able to share those stories and get them out so that we're working with our advocacy partners.
It's critical to the long-term recovery of the creative sector that creative workers, contractors, and freelancers are included in all federal, state, and local relief efforts whether that's through employment uninsurance, tax credits, cash assistance, student debt or mortgage payments suspension, or other mechanisms. The amount lost in contract cancellations, especially with the work in the service and retail industry drying up, it runs easily into the hundreds of millions of dollars and that's more than any one donor or organization or foundation can do.
Even so, emergency relief is critical now as we organize for what's next, we have to do both at the same time. We've gotten a lot of requests about our program and we're finalizing our quick and dirty So You Want to Start An Emergency Relief Fund toolkit, and when we have it, it'll be up at our website at springboardforthearts.org/coronavirus. So that's what we're doing on the ground here and building for what's next. Thanks for having me, you can reach me at [email protected] and all of our resources are being collected at springboardforthearts.org/coronavirus.
Ann Marie: Thank you so much, Carl. We really appreciate you. Now I'd like to invite Carrie Cleveland from CERF+.
Carrie: Thank you everyone for your time. Thank you to HowlRound and all of the people who mobilized so quickly to create this livestream. My name is Carrie Cleveland. I use she, her, hers pronouns and I am the education and outreach manager at CERF+. On behalf of the organization, I'm honored to be included.
For those of you who don't know us, CERF+ The Artist's Safety Net, is a national artist service organization that is dedicated to helping artists build strong and resilient careers and we're focused on emergency readiness, response, and recovery. CERF+ is the go-to organization for studio-based artists on readiness with information, resources, and education programs. We are an advocate for the needs of artists working with the general emergency management community and the federal government to ensure that their programs include artists and other self-employed workers. CERF+ as its founding mission is an emergency relief fund for artists working in craft disciplines facing career threatening emergencies.
So here's how we are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and what you can access through us. There are emergency and recovery resources for artists designed for studio-based artists, but really relevant to artists in all disciplines on risk management and continuity planning. We are linking to those and any additional resources through the COVID-19 banner on our homepage at cerfplus.org, and that's C-E-R-F-P-L-U-S.org. And our website is included in the Freelancers Resources page.
We're mobilizing our advocacy network and working nationally to help artists gain access to federal resources like those through the Small Business Administration and the FEMA Other Needs Assistance program, and connecting artists with those resources as they become available. We're launching the CERF+ COVID-19 Relief Fund, which joins our existing emergency relief funds. This particular fund will support artists working in craft disciplines, such as glass, wood, ceramics, fiber, metal who require intensive medical care with grants of $3,000.
We're collecting and developing resources on our COVID-19 response page. We're going to be building a map of localized resources, grants that are very region-specific so people can have a quick access to those. And we're also going to be sharing creative ways that we have seen artists conduct careers online, whether it's through Instagram auctions or online exclusive shopping opportunities with their community or online demonstrations or teaching.
Lastly, we're gathering data and aggregating it with what's being collected by other organizations in the field about the impacts of the virus so that we can be better advocates and better understand and meet your needs at this time. So visit cerfplus.org to access these resources. There is also a get updates form on the bottom of every page of our website where you can sign up to get our communications so that we can notify you as additional resources become available. We're in this with you for the long haul, and you can reach me at Carrie, C[email protected]. So thank you all so much for your time.
Ann Marie: Thank you, Carrie. Thank you, that was amazing. And now Mark Rossier, I'm going to invite you to share from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Mark Rossier: Thank you, Ann Marie. My name is Mark Rossier, I am the Director of Grants at the New York Foundation for the Arts, which is an organization that serves people of all artistic disciplines. We spread a pretty wide net. I have run a couple of emergency grant programs. What I wanted to do today was just talk to you about some of the things that would go into an application. I've been in a number of calls, so I think there are going to be some opportunities coming along for artists in all disciplines. The funding community understands the importance of this community of artists, and so I wanted to give you some tips of things to do before those things become available so you can be ready for them.
The first thing is read the guidelines. I know that Ann Marie said that, I really can't say it enough. Every program may not support every discipline, any program may not support every geographic region or financial situation, so save yourself time, read the guidelines. They're usually very clear, read the FAQ's, and if you're not qualified, just move on and look for other opportunities. There's no point in emailing funders and saying, "Can I be an exception?" Just move on. The other thing it's really important to have documentation. People are very sympathetic when it comes to emergency grants, but they still need to make their decisions based on data and information. So use this time now to pull together as much information as you can. What funders will look for varies, so again, you'll want to read the guidelines. But these are some of the things you should start compiling. Contracts or commitment letters stating the terms of the engagement, the dates, the rate of pay, and ideally though not vital would be a cancellation letter. Obviously, if your state has canceled all activities, you're fine, but ideally a cancellation letter. If you have a lot of this by email, that can be fine as well. If you don't have these, take time now, write to people and ask if you can get them. Tell them there are opportunities for you and you would love to get it in writing.
The other thing to remember is these don't have to be arts-related activities. Most funders understand that artists don't make most of their living from their art. So if you have temp jobs that are falling through, if you have catering jobs, teaching jobs, any of those things that you have that fell through, get the documentation for it. Anything that would have given you money, get documentation for it so that you'll be ready to submit things. The other thing is you want to have a strong history of your past activities. You may have to sort of guesstimate how much you would have brought in on certain things, but you really want to have backup for that.
For example, if you're a musician and you sell a lot of T-shirts and CDs, if people still make CDs, at your concerts, and you had concerts canceled, look back in your history and say, what was a similar sized venue in a similar geographic region and how much did you make from concert and T-shirt sales? You want to keep a record of all of that so that if you say I was supposed to perform a concert, the concert was canceled, here's how much I would have made, you have that as backup for it. Funders will find that and panelists will find that compelling and appropriate information because it's based on something real. Same goes for visual artists, the same goes for writers, if you sell books at events.
Also, again, as Ann Marie was saying, if you don't already have it, prepare an artist resume. Frequently on events like this, because there are people who are scammers. And the question of what's an artist and who's an artist will come up. So have a resume, have a website, or you can use the narrative portion of the application to explain that. These don't necessarily need to be things for which you're compensated. If you're an actor and you were in for readings, and you have a number of auditions or maybe you have an agent or a casting director who's called you to read for things, those all demonstrate that you are active in the field. And that's what panels want to know, that you are an active participant in the field. Visual artists, if you've had work in group shows, even if nothing has sold, that's fine. If you've been receiving grants, artist grants, that's fine. Press coverage is fine. Anything that sort of backs up your claim to be an artist.
Now, I could go on, but I will stop here. I will say that on our website which is nyfa.org, N-Y-F-A.org, we have a full list of resources as well. I'm sure a lot of our websites have the same information, but we just want to make sure it's out in as many ways as possible and now I'm going to go to Viviana for another reflective five. Thank you all.
Viviana: Thank you. This is really amazing. Yes, so, another reflective five. Taking in all the information we've gotten. Preparing, processing, and allowing to be continued to be filled with more great resources, solutions. Yes. And we'll be taking this moment to specifically uplift, center, hold space for Black freelance artists. So we'll go ahead and inhale, one, two, three, four five. Hold, five, four, three, two, one. Release, five, four, three, two, one. Thank you. Back to Ann Marie.
Ann Marie: Thank you so much. Thanks, Viviana, I appreciate you. All right, I just want to take a moment to say while we're in this space of reflection, we've already heard so much great information. This webinar, broadcast, live cast, whatever it's called is being recorded, and will be shared online by HowlRound and on the COVID Freelance Resource website in the next twenty-four hours or so. And we hope to also be able to share a transcript. I know we are sharing a lot of information quickly, so don't worry, we are trying to, we got you, we're trying to collect as much of this information as we can for you.
And we also just want to take a moment to acknowledge that we know this crisis is moving quickly, the reality on the ground is changing rapidly. And we unfortunately are not equipped to answer specific questions about every community. Our site has been shared all over the world and we're really amazed by that. But we're not, unfortunately, equipped to answer specific questions at this point. However, we are getting a lot of questions about geographically specific need, specifically information about unemployment insurance, government assistance, grants. We want to remind you again that you can look up your local Arts Council, which you can do by Googling your city or county and the words Arts Council and see what comes up and see if there is an emergency response. And remember that these are people experiencing crisis as well, so give it a few days, if you can. And we are also trying to collect a lot of discipline and geographically specific information on our site and share it as quickly as we can.
We just heard from a number of institutions and formal 501c3 organizations and we're really grateful for their presence today on the call. Now, we want to turn to some ideas for funding and fundraising that are more grassroots and extra-institutional since these have the possibility to move more quickly and disburse funds in new and innovative ways. Of course, we can look to alternate earning streams to support us while this crisis is ongoing, including distance work like copyediting, photo retouching, building websites, social media marketing, moving our classes and workshops online, and doing non-arts work as we always do. We did speak about this earlier. And more resources about this are on our site and hopefully we will have webinars and other information to share in the future.
If you are in a truly crisis situation, you can also look at ways to use debt responsibly to mitigate this crisis, including low or no interest loans, asking to skip or defer student loans or mortgage payments, and stuff like that. We're going to encourage you to be extremely cautious about using any kind of credit card or high-interest loan, as it may compound an already precarious situation. But if this is an option, it is one to look into together with your bank or loan servicer for a short-term solution. If you have small business insurance or general liability insurance, you might look into the possibility that you can file a claim against your policy for lost business income or some kind of help for business interruption. Some, but not all policies will include this type of coverage.
But truly, in the face of such a widespread crisis, we also want to talk about community-based mutual aid solutions, like the one that Ijeoma Oluo created in Seattle and which are being created all over the country. We have seen examples in Durham, North Carolina, Fort Worth, Texas, all over California, New York, and beyond. Some of them are discipline specific. Some serve populations that are experiencing this crisis in a more acute way, members of the Asian American Pacific Islander community, queer people, Black and Indigenous people of color, and immigrant communities. If you strongly identify with a community like this, these resources might be for you. This kind of community support has a long history going back hundreds of years actually in the form of giving circles and lending clubs, which are used today as a form of community-based insurance in Haiti, the Caribbean, India, and West Africa. In the United States, these mechanisms have moved online in the form of the GoFundMe campaign for personal costs in the wake of a family or medical crisis and now disburse millions of dollars a year to people in need. And I'm so honored to get to invite Ijeoma Oluo from Seattle, a writer and activist, to talk to us a little bit about her experience with her crowdfunding.
Ijeoma: Hi, can you all hear me okay? Wonderful, okay. I am Ijeoma Oluo, and I am a writer and speaker in the Seattle area. And we're kind of in the epicenter of this crisis right now. And we were hit hard for weeks, I kind of noticed a couple of weeks ago, I was looking at my calendar as a speaker and noticing that I had everything for the next two months had been canceled and was feeling quite lucky that I could weather that financially, but my partner is a musician and a radio DJ, we are very, very close in the arts community, my brother is a musician as well. And we realized that this was going to hit our community incredibly hard.
What we put together, I had had some previous experience in the community putting together sort of impromptu campaigns to help out locally whenever we had issues. We had a huge snowfall that kept kids out of school for multiple weeks and we kind of put together lunch campaigns, things like that. But this was something I knew was going to be bigger. So right now, it's a team of four of us, it's me, my assistant Ebony Arruga, who now that I don't have any speaking gigs, has been completely repurposed to work on this, and my partner Gabriel, And then we have partnered with a local theatre group, the Langston Hughes Theatre Arts Center. And it has been an amazing and frustrating experience.
A couple of the things that have been really great about this, one is when you're connected to the community, it's very easy for a community to reach out to you. So a lot of the outreach as far as letting people know this is available is already done within your network. Once you state and putting together funds, then people who support the arts and people who are artists are already kind of connected to you in a way. That really takes a lot of that PR work out of it. And for me as a Black woman, a Black queer person in the arts, it was really important to me that this wasn't just people who are really close to the industry who have access. And oftentimes people who know to apply for certain grants are people who have a particular type of access that people from traditionally underrepresented or marginalized communities do not.
So, we were able to set this up. We set up a GoFundMe and we used SurveyMonkey for people to apply. A couple of things I would say if you are interested in starting one of your own is try to get as much information as you can from the applicants because there have been definite groups that have reached out to us saying we have funding that's specific to LGBTQ people, can we give that to you for your LGBTQ applicants? Things like that, if you already have that data, it makes it a lot easier to have those conversations. We take the applications and we work out a formula based on how much money we have. So we've set a minimum that we can give and a maximum we can give and we look at the group of applications we have and what percentage of the requests we can afford to pay out, not percentage as in how many people, but percentage of what was requested. We're seeing requests anywhere from $50 to $15,000. Some of our really big festivals were canceled and artists are out a lot of money. And we are really looking at what we can pay that's meaningful, but also ensures that we can help as many people as possible.
So far, we've been really lucky in that we've been able to partner with local nonprofits like Langston and they have been able to help us with our payments. PayPal is not a good partner for this sort of work at all. It's been an actual nightmare. We had tens of thousands of dollars locked up in PayPal for almost a week because their scam alerts set off when we started sending money out to people and we were unable to touch it. So partnering with a nonprofit that already has a mechanism to send money out is really important. It's also really important that we be transparent if you're going to do this sort of community fundraising. So while I feel like I'm a trusted member of the community, the reach of this project is far beyond people I know and the funding grows and grows and grows, and the partnerships grow. So what we've done is stay accountable is we've brought in accountability partners, so we've brought in people from industry and people from the arts, who agreed to look at information redacted, like no names of where the money is coming in and where it's going out, so oversee that process, so that we can provide regular reporting on demand to people who want to know where the money is going to.
We're also very careful to make sure that we are taking care of and really representing the needs of marginalized artists. So we really are focusing on getting the word out to our Black Indigenous people of color, disabled artists, and our queer and trans artists and non-binary artists and making sure that they can apply. And we're also making sure that everyone knows this is a fully intersectional approach and when it comes to who gets time and money from us.
It's been a huge project, it has taken up a lot of my time, a lot of my whole team's time, but we're really grateful for it. It's also been really great because a lot of nonprofits and government groups that can't immediately disburse funds are able to grant us and we can disburse funds. And so, I've heard from a lot of people who work at these larger foundations who are really frustrated that they can't just immediately start cutting checks because they know the urgency of it. But also this means that right now we're also setting up meetings with how do we transition towards longer-term assistance? Here in Seattle, we are looking at likely at least eight weeks of sheltering in place pretty much. This means that we're going to need more than what just emergency assistance can provide.
But I will say that this is an amazing opportunity as artist and activists for us to look at what community means, for us to look at how we support the arts, how our cities support the arts and look at how we work together, we're finding new ways to bring the arts to people. We're trying, as creators, to also model arts in a world where we're being responsible and kind of keeping ourselves at home. What does it look like? What does social distancing look like in a social world? I feel like as artists, we can show that with our work. So we are doing fundraisers, we're planning a fundraiser that's going to be like an online telethon and people are recording their performances. And we're going to have announcers talking about it, raising funds. And people can login online and see what's happening. And we can keep people connected, keep the arts alive in our city and also continue to fund artists.
So it's been a really difficult time and it's been a beautiful time. And I hope that we can all use this to look at how we connect to each other and look at how we keep each other together for the long-term and work with our agencies, work with our theatre groups so that we can really all hold each other up. We're really hoping that in Seattle we can be a model for this, not only in how we get through crisis, but really how we transform through crisis. And that's really our goal is to transform away from a hyper-Capitalist system that really crushes people of color, trans people, non-binary people, queer people, disabled people at the moment that there is any sort of trouble and one that instead upholds and fully is shaped by these populations as well. And so that's really what we're looking for, we're paring with our libraries, we're pairing with our theatre groups, we're pairing with our city, we're pairing with our arts groups and using the flexibility we have and the experience we have on the ground to do that.
So I encourage anyone who wants to look at the language we have, the set-up we have and wants to copy it, I get twenty emails a day asking if people can copy that, please feel free, copy it, copy it for your group, copy it not only for gig workers, but also looking at the other industries that gig workers often work at. So so many gig workers also work at the restaurants that are closing and things like that. So what can we do in these spaces? If we all work together, I think we can really transform our communities as horrible as the situation is, I think we can transform our communities for the better. Thanks.
Nicole: What? Thank you! I got to keep my shit together. Amy, woohoo, let's go on to you if you can.
Amy: Okay. Woo, wow, I'm so grateful to be here. I'm Amy Smith, I'm a dance and theatre artist based in Philadelphia, educator and facilitator as well. I want to start with a quote from Grace Lee Boggs, who said, "Every crisis, actual or impending, needs to be viewed as an opportunity to bring about profound changes in our society. Going beyond protest organizing, visionary organizing begins by creating images and stories of the future that help us imagine and create alternatives to the existing system." So that's from her book The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.
And I'm going to talk about some financial well-being that we can be thinking about as we deal with this pandemic. I want to start by saying, you are not alone. Many of us feel embarrassed to talk about financial vulnerability because neoliberal capitalism tells us that we should be climbing a ladder toward financial success and that our success and failures are indicative of individual strength or weakness. But your debt is not shameful, your financial reality is not shameful, it is not of your making. The system was designed to funnel wealth toward the owning class and it is working exactly as it was designed. Capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, and white supremacy all work together to ensure the flow of wealth into the hands of white people in the owning class. No amount of individual knowledge or strength or perseverance guarantees upward mobility. But I believe that we can share resources and form coalitions to achieve more personal, family, and community well-being. I hope that this pandemic can move us closer to humane policies from our government and more robust structures of mutual aid.
There is some deep stuff getting in the way of our financial well-being beyond the structural oppression. One is imposter syndrome, or as the woman who coined that phrase wishes she'd called it, imposter experience. Imposter experience makes us doubt our accomplishments and creates a persistent, internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud or not belonging. The other thing getting in the way of our financial well-being is scarcity mentality. Scarcity mentality is zero-sum thinking, it's the belief that there will never be enough, it's short-term thinking over long-term thinking. If we can learn to recognize the patterns of scarcity mentality in ourselves and others, we can start to move toward healthier attitudes and more collective power. In a time of crisis, I'm not sure we can realistically move towards abundance thinking, but we do need to be asking, what is enough? And make sure that we share resources, so that everyone has enough and survives together.
Scarcity mentality is bad for our mental health because it makes us jealous and competitive and it's bad for our financial health because it encourages us to make short-term decisions that have a negative effect on our long-term financial health. Scarcity mentality also leads to power hoarding, which is one of the aspects of white supremacy culture identified by Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones in the article of that name. "Power hoarding is seeing little value around sharing power. Power is seen as limited with only so much to go around." This is quoting from the article. “Those with power feel threatened when anyone suggests changes in how things should be done. Those with power assume they have the best interests of the organization at heart. And assume those wanting change are ill-informed, emotional, inexperienced.” This attitude is very familiar to me having run a nonprofit arts organization for twenty-five years and from the countless stories I've heard during tax prep for hundreds of artists over the years. You can substitute the word power with the word wealth and you have a perfect description of the nonprofit industrial complex. This thinking is hurting us individually and preventing us from coming together to solve our collective problems.
Even before this pandemic, 40% of people in the United States did not have $400 in the bank to cover an emergency. When you don't have an emergency fund, you cannot survive unexpected losses of income like many of us are experiencing right now. Personal finance experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account, money market or other steady account, but in my experience, that's pretty hard for most low income and working-class artists to achieve, so I always recommend one to three months’ worth of expenses.
The trick is to do this, you have to start saving before you have paid down debt, which feels somehow wrong because of what our culture tells us about debt being shameful. So, once we get through this current crisis, plan for the next one by slowly building up an emergency fund. And while we're in this crisis, we need to do some redistribution of wealth inside our arts communities and local communities to fill the gaps of government programs and provide assistance to those most vulnerable. And just to be clear, those most vulnerable are Black Indigenous people of color, trans artists, undocumented artists, and artists with disabilities. We who have class privilege need to put our money where our mouth is now.
Let's talk about safety nets. There's nothing wrong with having a safety net and no shame in using a safety net if you have one. We are in a crisis and now is the time to use that safety net. If you can access them, access Medicaid and SNAP, aka food stamps, and other government safety net programs. If you have a family safety net and you have resource to share, share those resources with others in your circles. I inherited some money when my grandfather died several years ago and my practice since then has been a practice of personal reparations, I'm trying to give away money in direct proportion to my white privilege and unearned wealth. This has happened for me in two ways, 0% interest loans to a Black person so they have a down payment to buy a house and a trans person to go to nursing school. And periodically, just Venmoing a Black former student who is food insecure and an undocumented former student who needs help making rent. There are also a bunch of community funds and mutual aid maps being set up in response to this pandemic, some of which we're heard about tonight, and it's great that so many artists are contributing and it's also great to reach out to those funds if you need the support.
Collectives. I'm so inspired by people who formed collectives to address community needs like mutual aid societies. The Free African Society was founded right here in Philadelphia in 1787 by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, which morphed into insurance companies, credit unions, trade unions, and co-working spaces, cooperatives like Fannie Lou Hamer's Freedom Farm Cooperative, community land trusts (many of which were founded during the Civil Rights Movement and still exist today), artist collectives, and the Jubilee movement. Individual artists can and should come together to build collectives to help us survive this moment, but I also call on institutions to come together. We have five LORT theatres in Philadelphia, what if all five EDs came together to brainstorm how to support the whole community of theatre artists?
Another suggestion I'll make is to use debt wisely. If you have a credit card, call them now to ask for a lower interest rate or see if you can get one of those cards with a 0% rate for six months or a year and use it to pay down cards with a higher APR. If you own a home, take advantage of these historically low interest rates to get a home equity loan or refinance your mortgage to pay down other debt. If you have student loan debt, ask for a deferment or sign-up for income-based repayment or debt consolidation and consider declaring bankruptcy. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It's a smart move if you are overwhelmed with debt. I want to put in a caveat that if you work with a credit counseling agency, make sure it is a nonprofit credit counseling agency. NFCC.org is a good place to start and/or you could go to the resources pages of my website, which is amyelainesmith.com for more resources. All debt is negotiable. Many low-income artists don't realize that lenders have all budgeted for writing off bad debt. Call your lenders. Tell them you've lost income due to the coronavirus and ask them to write off a portion of your debt, lower your APR, or give you other relief.
I would love to schedule a future conversation so that we can go deeper into these topics and also talk about issues like valuing your time, negotiating for fair pay, advocating for and establishing equal pay policies, budgeting, financial goalsetting, but for now, navigating these uncertain times, I mostly just want to underline, do not be ashamed, use this time to reflect and plan, and find opportunities to form collective bonds that will last long after this crisis has passed. And with that, I'm going to hand it back to Nicole.
Nicole: Thank you so much, Amy. So I want to do the last of our reflective fives and I'm going to name out some populations and some communities that we want to hold up. Parents and caregivers, those freelance artists, neuro-diverse freelancers, and freelance artists over the age of sixty-five. And so we'll do our reflective five. Inhale in, one, two, three, four, five. Hold, five, four, three, two, one. Release, one, two, three, four, five. Great, I want to turn it over to Abigail, I believe. Abigail Vega!
Abigail: Wonderful. Folks, thank you so much for hanging with us. We have heard so, so much amazing information tonight and we're grateful to all of the inspiring folks who are on this call. I'm here to be the bearer of bad news. We unfortunately won't have time on this panel to answer specific questions, but we have been collecting them. We're going to be getting those questions to the right people via email and then we'll be tweeting out their kind of bite-sized responses to them and helping to direct y'all to some other resources. We will try to go where the heat is and explore and answer the questions that keep coming up in some form or another.
But we did receive some questions that are very basic. Things like, where can I find resources to help me financially in my specific city or state? Or will you be listing resources that will help me financially? And the answer is yes! Our community here in the United States and abroad has been so, so generous with creating and sharing resources to provide for the freelance community. And because there's so many, it would not be a good use of our time to verbally list them here. So, we're going to encourage you to visit covid19freelanceartistresource.wordpress.com, that's covid19freelanceartistresource.wordpress.com to find literally hundreds, hundreds of resources sorted by topics including mental health and health needs, advocacy, financial needs, remote job opportunities, and interrupting racism and bias among many others. So, if you need a resource, check here. Check your local arts councils and check here first. And if you have a resource to share, please let us know by submitting it online via our very quick Google form online on that resource list. Hundreds of people have already done so in the last three days, so you can, too.
We want to draw your attention to a few resources that did catch our eyes. These will also be tweeted out by HowlRound so will the COVID-19 website again. These include Arts Administrators of Color’s GoFundMe to support Black Indigenous people of color, individual artists and arts administrators. You can find that at aacnetwork.org. Amita Swadhin's GoFundMe is called COVID-19 Mutual Aid Fund for LGBTQI+ BIPOC Folks. So that's a big one and if you want to apply for those funds, they're closing the application for it tomorrow, so we will be tweeting that out as well. We also want to draw attention to the Chicago Artists Relief Fund on GoFundMe and The Indie Theatre Fund Rapid Relief Emergency Fund.
We know that tonight we barely scratched the surface of some larger conversations. This is an emerging project. So we have been listening to the community to dictate our next steps. That being said, we've heard some calls for future conversations, so right now we've outlined some panels that we'll be putting together over the next few days and weeks. One on Interrupting Bias and Racism in Our Heightened Environment and that is hopefully going to be co-hosted with National Performance Network. Number two, Re-Imagining How We Gather, thinking about how we can come together at this time with Brian Joseph Lee and TBA celebrity guest to be announced shortly. Financial Literacy and Planning for Individual Artists with Amy Smith, hopefully. And then another one around families, How Artists with Families can Weather this COVID-19 Crisis with Rachel Spencer Hewitt and the Parent-Artist Advocacy League. So if you had questions that felt like they were inside of any those four categories, stay tuned.
The best way to keep up to date with these resources is of course follow the website that Ann Marie is holding up right now. Covid19freelanceartistresource.wordpress.com. But also, sign up for HowlRound's mailing list and follow them on Twitter @HowlRound. We, the producers of this call, don't have a structure in place to email you once these conversations get scheduled, but HowlRound does. So take advantage of that resource. Sign up, it's painless, it's quick, and stay informed. The transcript for this call will be available in about three days and video recording of this call will be available within twenty-four hours on the same HowlRound post that you're currently watching this on. If you have friends who need to see this, direct them to this page within twenty-four hours, it'll be there. Okay, I've said a lot. So I'm now going to turn it back over to Nicole and Viviana.
Nicole: Beautiful. I just love the way we're getting that website up there. Boop! Yeah, all right, Viv.
Viviana: Yes, so we're reaching the end. And I just wanted to reflect, have us all reflect back to the original intentions you may have set for this call, for these hours together. Things you want to take with us into this new, into this time and things you wanted to let go of. And so I also wanted to now invite us beyond this call to do the same. I would love for you to answer the question with yourself, with your community, what are you ready to let go of? Going into this new time, into this new season, challenge. And what would you like to be poured into you? Great. Yeah, so, handing it over to the producers for final words. Thank you, everyone.
Nicole: Thank you, Viv.
Hannah: Great. All right.
Nicole: Okay great, so I will take the lead on that. There's a bunch of silence. I think I forgot I was facilitating! I'm so full. Just very briefly, I want to say listen, this started with an idea for me on Wednesday and that idea did not just start on its own. It came from me listening to the Healing Justice podcast I had done an episode around disabled people mobilizing and also doing a four-hour webinar to share resources. And later in the day I was like, "Why can't we do that as freelance artists?" and so, I'm so grateful to one, my ArtEquity community, who I was able to drop in a request around was anybody else thinking this way. I'm saying this because this started out of me wanting to be in community with folks. It started with me wanting to collaborate with people. It started because my beloved community in the United States is an invisibilized community, even though they're beautiful, and they're gorgeous and they're wonderful. So we are transitioning to talk about something that's quite shameful and is used as Amy was talking about, as a system of oppression, which is money. So, I just kind of want to turn this over, Ann Marie, to you.
Ann Marie: Oh, thank you so much. Tell me what I'm supposed to do right now. I just got overwhelmed.
Hannah: We got a little script, y'all. Look at our little script.
Anne Marie: Thank you.
Hannah: Under closing thanks.
Anne Marie: Sorry.
Hannah: Starts with Nicole.
Nicole: Yeah, am I doing filler or you?
Anne Marie: Hey, no. Well, so sorry, I got lost. While this is a labor of love for all of us, creating and maintaining the resource list is actually work. We're so proud of our community for stepping up to help each other and because of that, there has been so much to take care of and manage. So, if you would like to contribute $1 or $3 towards this effort, as well as the continued efforts of maintaining the resource list online, you can Venmo funds directly to @COV19-FAR, that's @COV19-FAR. The name associated is our call producer, Abigail Vega.
Hannah: And we just want to backup just a minute to give some framework for that ask. One of the things we've all been learning in real time over the past few days is just how fraught conversations about money can be, and Nicole just brought that up. And how often we're not having them to avoid embarrassment, shame and feelings of unworthiness, which Amy talked about. We're really hoping that tonight we all made some steps towards undoing, the unlearning of that social programming. The work you all are doing as individual artists in service of your communities, and service of this world is valuable and you deserve to be paid for it.
Abigail: One thing we also want to say as we close out is that HowlRound has been a wonderful partner in all of this, they've provided the platform for this to happen this evening. Funds for the ASL interpreters as well as some base support for freelance artists who facilitated tonight. And we're all so grateful that they are a committed partner as we move forward with future livestream conversations. Again, if you want to be a part of the next one that's a little bit more specific, follow HowlRound. The funds that, anything that comes out of tonight, is not going to HowlRound. It will be split equitably according to need among some of the freelance unaffiliated facilitators and producers for this. So tonight on the resource site, you will see a link to our list of funds raised, who they went to, how much is being paid out, 100% transparency. And as such, we'll be closing down the Venmo at 9 p.m. EDT tomorrow night, 17 March. So it's only open for twenty-four hours, this isn't some attempt to like keep it going. Don't stress if you cannot give. We're all in this together.
Nicole: Following instructions. I don't know if you can see that.
Anne Marie: Yup, I see it. I love it.
Hannah: I'm going to go ahead and close this out.
Nicole: I'm literally fighting the shame in my body right now around this ask and I only say that because I know that other people feel this, this shame around the work that we do because we've been so ingrained in this work folks, I've personally not been able to apply for any emergency resources because I've been tending to the beloved community, so I also kind of just want to put that out there, the work that we're doing. Literally, folks have been working twelve hours since this came up on Wednesday to make it happen for you. I hope it was useful. I hope, I mean, I feel full. I want to thank all of our guests. I want to thank HowlRound. I want to thank everybody who showed up and gave their time. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Anybody else want to say anything?
Hannah: Just a couple more things to close us out. The most important thing we want to drill down on, you are not alone. So tonight, we had at least 700 people if not many more watching this webinar. We've got to compile all the stats to know. Keep organizing, keep connecting and let's hold each other during this time from a distance of course. And a reminder that you can watch a recording of this panel on HowlRound.com starting tomorrow and get on HowlRound's mailing list so you can hear about future conversations led by this group and our fantastic network of geniuses. Thank you so much. Take care of yourselves.
Abigail: Thank you all, good night.
Ann Marie: Take care, I love you.
Ann: Thank you.
HowlRound plus a group of artists, arts administrators, and others from around the US gathered on Monday 16 March 2020 to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting freelance artists (those who identify as independent contractors) from all disciplines and where artists can look for support in this complicated moment. The conversation will focus on shared resources (legal, advocacy, how to take your work virtual, finding emergency funding, and financial best practices in crisis) and building and grounding our national community.
Speakers and facilitators include Nicole Brewer (Anti-Racist Theatre Facilitator), Viviana Vargas (Advancing Arts Forward), Vijay Mathew (HowlRound), Ann Marie Lonsdale (Network of Ensemble Theaters and GhostBoat Consulting), Claudia Alick (CALLING UP Justice), Hannah Fenlon (Network of Ensemble Theaters, formerly Theatre Communications Group), Carl Atiya Swanson (Associate Director, Springboard for the Arts), Carrie Cleveland (Education & Outreach Manager, CERF+), Amy Smith (Dance and theater artist, educator, facilitator), Laurie Baskin (Director of Research, Policy & Collective Action, Theatre Communications Group), Avita Delerme, Esq (Senior Counsel, Legal Affairs at The Public Theater), Ouida Maedel, (Musical Theater/Theater Specialist, National Endowment for the Arts), Mark Rossier (Director of NYFA Grants, New York Foundation for the Arts), Brian Eugenio Herrera (Associate Professor of Theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University), Jan Feldman (Executive Director, Lawyers for the Creative Arts), and more (to be announced as confirmed). This virtual convening is inspired by and connected to a multi-disciplinary resource list shared widely among individual artist communities over the past several days.
Carrie Cleveland is the Education + Outreach Manager at CERF+ where she has held various positions since 2008. During this time, she has participated in all aspects of the organization’s work to help artists have resilient careers, from counseling artists seeking emergency assistance to spearheading fundraising appeals to teaching emergency preparedness workshops across the United States and territories. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history, with extensive work in the visual arts, from Marlboro College and prior to her time at CERF+ she was an entomologist’s assistant by day and a tenor saxophone player by night. In addition to her work at CERF+, Carrie is a student of Facilitated Communication, and she is also a beginning metalsmith.
Avita Delerme is the Senior Counsel of Legal Affairs at The Public Theater. Avita is responsible for advising and assisting on contracts, policy, and legal affairs concerning the non-profit performing arts organization. Prior to the Public, Avita worked at SAG-AFTRA in the Theatrical Department where she advocated on behalf of actors and performers. Prior to that, she held roles at EMI Music (now Universal Music) and Sony Music where she worked in their contracts department. Avita serves on the Diversity Committee of the Entertainment and Sports Law Section of the New York State Bar Association, and is a member of the Theater and Performing Arts Committee. Avita obtained her Juris Doctorate from the Western State University Law School and her Bachelors in Philosophy at Rutgers University.
Ann Marie Lonsdale (she/her) is an arts worker with experience as a producer and administrator working with innovative and experimental live performance, artist services, grantmaking, and capacity-building for artists and small companies. She has worked as a performer, stage manager, and producer in theater and dance in Chicago and New York, with such companies as The Hypocrites, the Vittum Theater (now Adventure Stage Chicago), the side project, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Sitelines dance and performance festival. As an administrator, she worked as Program Manager for the Creative Capital Professional Development Program, as General Manager at CPR - Center for Performance Research, a space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that supports artist working in dance and experimental performance, and as Director of Programs and Deputy Director at A.R.T./New York, a service organization for New York's nonprofit theatre community, overseeing a suite of services including grants, loans, professional development, and convenings. She has also worked in the performing arts community as an educator, facilitator, grant panelist, speaker, and consultant. She has done training with artEquity, and is actively engaged in a national community of practice around anti-racism in the theatre and arts. Ann Marie is a proud graduate of the University of Chicago and holds a master’s degree in Arts Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Amy Smith is a dance and theater artist, educator, and facilitator. She works to dismantle oppressive structures in non-profit organizations and other groups so that artists and low income folks can achieve collective liberation. She does this through financial well-being workshops, consulting with artists and arts organizations, co-facilitating anti-racism sessions, and as a dance and theater educator. Amy co-founded, co-directed, and performed with Headlong, a dance company that transformed into a community arts organization over 25 years. She left Headlong in 2019 to pursue freelance work.
Carl Atiya Swanson is a creative with an MBA, a third-culture kid, and a practical optimist. He works as Associate Director at Springboard for the Arts, a national leader in artists resources and artist-led community development, overseeing the Creative Exchange platform, operations, and communications. He is a 2019 Young Cultural Innovators Fellow with the Salzburg Global Seminar and has served on the boards of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network - Twin Cities, and Dissonance, advocating for mental health and wellness in creativity. He has a BA in Studio Art from the University of Southern California and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business, and founded Cast Consulting to work with artists and creative organizations of all kinds.
Abigail Vega is a producer, organizer, director, was the first Producer of the Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC), and is currently the Alumni Engagement Producer for artEquity. With the LTC she has produced live convenings in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Princeton, Austin, Miami, and New York. Previously, she was an Ensemble Member of Teatro Luna with whom she performed in over twenty-five cities. Her writing can be found in Micha Espinosa's "Monologues for Latino Actors," and her directing has been seen at Teatro Luna, the Aurora Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, and Stages Rep in Houston, Texas. Abigail is a graduate of the NALAC Leadership Institute, and is a member of artEquity 2016 cohort. Abigail Vega was a participant in the Leadership U: One-on-One program, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group.
Brian Eugenio Herrera is, by turns, a writer, teacher and scholar - presently based in New Jersey, but forever rooted in New Mexico. Brian's work, whether academic or artistic, examines the history of gender, sexuality and race within and through U.S. popular performance. He is author of Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance (Michigan, 2015) which was awarded the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. Brian is the Inaugural Resident Scholar for The Sol Project, an initiative dedicated to producing the work of Latinx playwrights in New York City and beyond; a longstanding contributor to the Fornés Institute, a project committed to preserving and amplifying the legacy of María Irene Fornés; and a part of the Core Facilitation Team with ArtEquity, an organization dedicated to creating and sustaining a culture of equity and inclusion through the arts. Brian is presently at work on two scholarly book projects: Next! A Brief History of Casting, a historical study of the material practices of casting in US popular performance, and Starring Miss Virginia Calhoun, a narrative portrait of a deservedly obscure early 20th century actress/writer/producer. He is Associate Professor of Theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University.
Nicole Brewer is an actor, director and educator who was compelled to speak out against the harmful and unnecessary practice of cultural erasure in traditional theatre programs. In her 2018 American Theatre article, Training With A Difference Nicole called on theatre institutions to disrupt homogeneity by embracing conscientious training practices and implementing cross cultural collaborative curriculums. Currently Nicole travels both domestically and internationally partnering with individuals and organizations to help them adopt an anti-racist theatre ethos. She has shared her work on various panels and has presented at TCG conferences, National Black Theater Festival and Goldsmiths University in the UK. She has given anti-racist theatre workshops at Yale, NYU, University of Cambridge, National Theater Institute, and more. Nicole is a proud member of the 2018 artEquity cohort. She resides in Washington DC with her husband and three heartbeats (children).
Ouida Maedel (she/hers) has served as a Theater and Musical Theater Specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts since 2018, where she manages a diverse portfolio of organizations seeking and receiving funding for arts projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories. Previously, she was the Grants Manager at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC. In that capacity, she leveraged more than a decade of experience in theatre performance and production to maximize efficiency and collaboration in institutional fundraising efforts and special project management. Prior to her work at Woolly Mammoth, Ouida was the Partnerships and Production Manager at Dance Exchange, where notable projects under her supervision were How to Lose a Mountain which included a 500-mile hike and community engagement tour from Washington, DC to West Virginia and culminated in an award-winning National Performance Network commission for the stage, and Bricks & Bones, a multisite performance series developed in partnership with Dallas Faces Race. She has also worked with Move This World, 13th Street Repertory Company, and the NYU Tisch Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Ouida has served as a mentor for early career stage managers through USITT’s Stage Management Mentor Project, was named a Rising Leader of Color by Theatre Communications Group in 2016, holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in International Communication and Arts Management from American University, where she was a recipient of the Dean’s Award in the School of International Service.
Laurie Baskin joined Theatre Communications Group (TCG) in 1997 and is director of Research, Policy & Collective Action. Ms. Baskin created and administers the Blue Star Theatres program, which fosters engagement between theatres and military families. In her responsibility for TCG’s research, she oversees the Fiscal, Salary & Education Surveys. She administers TCG’s Education Programs, including teleconferences & Special Report series. Her endeavors in theatre education over the last twenty years include conceiving and spearheading an assessment project, Building a National TEAM: Theatre Education Assessment Models. Ms. Baskin is TCG’s liaison to the Performing Arts Alliance. She directs advocacy efforts at the federal level on behalf of the professional, not-for-profit American theatre field. She regularly provides advocacy updates for TCG’s website, Action Alerts to the field, and provides witnesses and testimony for legislative hearings. Prior to joining TCG, Ms. Baskin served for 15 years as executive assistant to the Chairman of the NYS Council on the Arts, working for then-Chairman, Kitty Carlisle Hart. She attended Mount Holyoke College, earned her B.A. from Colgate University, and a degree in arts administration from Adelphi University.
Viviana Vargas is an artist, activist, arts manager, educator, facilitator, and entrepreneur. After finishing two degrees in the performing arts and spending time in the “diversity and inclusion” field of the American Theatre, Viviana founded Advancing Arts Forward, a movement to advance equity, inclusion, and justice through the arts by creating liberated spaces that uplift, heal, and encourage us to explore our vast potential to change the world. Advancing Arts Forward hosts and consults for in person and online workshops, gatherings, discussions, and resource sharings across the country and worldwide. Currently, Viviana is launching Balistikal, an LGBTQ+ centered healing and co-working space with performances, workshops and other events located in Bogotá, Colombia. As a triple citizen of Ecuador, Colombia, and the United States, Viviana has been actively considering their role in the fight for liberation beyond the U.S. borders thinking specifically about decolonization and collective liberation among all our relations. Viviana is also a member of the Latinx Theatre Commons steering committee and is co-championing a 2023 summit on combating colorism and anti-blackness within the Latinx community.
Mark Rossier held a variety of positions at the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) since 2008, most recently as Director of Grants, overseeing both the Fiscal Sponsorship department and 9 grant programs distributing nearly $3 million annually. Prior to joining NYFA he was Director of Development and Marketing at the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York), where he coordinated grants to Off Broadway Theatres after the World Trade Center attack. He was also Director of Marketing at the Shakespeare Festival of New Jersey and Capital Repertory Theater in Albany, New York. He has been a frequent grant panelist for the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, among many others, and has served three terms as a member of the nominating and voting committee for the Lucille Lortel Awards, which honor excellence Off-Broadway.
Hannah Fenlon (she/her/hers) is a cultural strategist and arts administrator with a background in the performing arts and higher education. She is deeply interested in the power of bringing together creative people to increase our sense of shared purpose and to improve our social infrastructure. She is currently working as a Producer with the All My Relations collective and as Producing & Engagement Consultant for the Network of Ensemble Theaters (NET). Hannah was previously the Associate Director of Conferences and Fieldwide Learning for Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and Alumni and Communications Manager for artEquity. She holds a Masters in Arts Administration from Columbia University, and a BA in Drama from Kenyon College, and has also worked with the Juilliard School and the University of Chicago, among arts and culture organizations. She is serving on the inaugural board of the Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL). www.hannahfenlon.com
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This panel was outstanding and this much-needed information for the creative communities. I am holding a free workshop/class on Thursdays & Fridays - Betty of Brooklyn Presents: Digital Brand Development for Artists & Educators - Event Website: https://bettyofbrooklyn.converdy.link/
Thank you for all the useful advice and guidance for all the artists out there - the panelist were super knowledgeable.