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Action Taken by the Hamilton Arts Council During COVID-19

Blog/NewsMay 7th 2020
Emma McCarty

During Covid-19 it is hard to imagine the arts community - a group that thrives on the connection achieved through live events, classes and performances - would be able to function successfully, while meeting social distancing mandates. The Hamilton Arts Council recognized that local artists and arts organizations were struggling to combat revenue loss and knew they had to do something.

I had the chance to speak with David Hudson, the Community Engagement Officer at the Hamilton Arts Council (HAC) about the impact that the current pandemic has had on local artists and organizations. We also discussed the creative ways that the HAC is helping the Hamilton community through the development of the Hamilton Artists’ Relief Fund and their Online Performance Series.

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Hamilton Artists' Relief Fund 

The Hamilton Artists’ Relief Fund is an initiative focused on raising and distributing funds to artists struggling during this pandemic. “The fund exists to put money directly into the hands of artists who are experiencing hardships through the loss of the ability to present their work,” said Hudson.

“As artists, we know it isn’t just the loss of people coming out to see our work and buying tickets but also an inability to exhibit, to hold classes, to teach, to collaborate, all of that is gone.” Hudson explained that not only do artists face revenue loss from their creative work but, “Many artists have sidelines to support their work,” he says.  “They work in the service industry or sales - so when this stopped it really hit them.”

The Hamilton Artists’ Relief Fund is made up entirely of donations from organizations and the community that will go directly into the pockets of artists who need the support.

The money goes directly to artist who apply.

Artists and arts organizations may apply for the fund through the Hamilton Arts Council website, where they will need to fill out an application as well as request an amount between $100 and $1000 to receive. Hudson explains that the application was also a way to document the affect of Covid-19, and that it “asked people what the extent of their losses were to get a sense of what had happened.” The HAC wanted to take down as much information as they could, in order to be better prepared to help the community were this to happen again.

Online Performance Series

About the Hamilton Arts Council’s Online Performance Series, Hudson says, “When we discussed the fund, it was put forward that we should include an online presentation series.” The idea was to create a “telethon” style series where artists performed through a live stream via the HAC Facebook page. 

All artists are given $250 for their performance. Hudson stresses that the $250 given to artists is not from donations collected for the Hamilton Artists’ Relief Fund but rather separate money provided by the HAC.

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When speaking about the performers Hudson says “It’s cool, you get two types of artists involved, those who desperately need a gig that pays them $250 bucks… but it’s interesting as well because there are artists who will re donate, they actually re donate into the fund.” 

They [the artists] actually re donate into the fund and that’s happened more times then you would realize.

Donations from the Hamilton Artists’ Relief Fund come in after the artist’s performance is finished. The HAC has set a goal of distributing $50,000 and at the time of writing they are over half way to this goal.

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When it comes to arts in this difficult time, Hudson stresses that people should understand it isn’t just about a lack of art or losing things to look at. “It’s about creative thinking, community, tourism, money,” he says. “If we don’t support that, the entire community suffers – not just the arts community.” Several organizations, including the McMaster Museum of Art and the Art Gallery of Hamilton have contributed to the Hamilton Artists’ Relief Fund. “They have a clear understanding and know the importance of supporting [the arts],” says Hudson.

The Hamilton Arts Council recognizes the current need within the arts community and stepped up to support local artists and arts organizations during this unprecedented time. Check out the Online Performance Series via the HAC Facebook page as well as donate if you can.

Emma McCarty is a 2019 McMaster political science graduate, the current Community Outreach Coordinator at CFMU, and the host of MorningFile. Contact her through email at cfmucom@msu.mcmaster.ca.