The Arts Sector is Being Decimated by COVID-19. What Are Funders Doing in Response?

Spring 2020

By Mike Scutari

It’s only been a few weeks, but COVID-19 has already caused incalculable and potentially irreversible damage to the nonprofit arts world. Theaters are dark, museums are shuttered, work has dried up, and revenue has evaporated.

The good news—if there is any—is that funders are quickly ramping up efforts to help organizations and artists in need.

On March 20th, a broad consortium of funders, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Ford Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation launched the $75 million NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund to support the city’s cultural and social services organizations. Other funders are loosening grant application restrictions, extending or waiving deadlines, and honoring commitments for events that won’t take place.

I reached out to funders, nonprofits and arts advocates, asking them how philanthropy can make the greatest impact in the present moment. Three key themes emerged. First, “donors are doing much of what we would hope for: asking institutions what they need,” said Melissa Cowley Wolf and Sean McManus of the advisory firm M + D.

Second, while organizations need help as soon as possible, funders want to ensure they make a maximal impact. “The situation is complex, and evolving very rapidly,” Creative Capital President Suzy Delvalle said. “We’re reaching out to one another and trying to come to an understanding of how best to respond. We want to move quickly, but we also need to ensure we’re developing an understanding of where assistance is most needed and can be most helpful.”

And third, the arts sector had been plagued by shrinking government support, falling revenues and equity shortcomings before COVID-19 hit. What will it look like when the pandemic eventually ebbs? “The crisis,” William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Program Director Emiko Ono told me, “is exposing weaknesses that we should avoid inadvertently reinforcing through stimulus and recovery efforts.”

While this crisis has been unfolding for just a short while, a clear playbook is now emerging for how philanthropy can best support the arts during a period of profound trauma.

1. Provide emergency funds—the sooner the better

Less than a week after the first few COVID-19 response funds were announced by local grantmakers, the total number is more than 100 and rising. The individuals I reached out to unanimously encouraged arts funders to do the same.

“Because many working artists simultaneously work in the ‘gig economy,’ these individuals are struggling to make ends meet and support their families. Many do not have health insurance,” John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation President John Palfrey told me. MacArthur is a contributor to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund, which raised $8 million within the first 24 hours of launching.

“When it arrives, emergency support needs to be accessible and equitable, without too many strings or administrative barriers attached,” said Jeannie L. Howe, executive director of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

On March 10, New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation announced a new medical emergency aid program that provides visual and media artists and choreographers with up to $5,000 to cover a number of unforeseen medical expenses.

“The timing of this announcement happened to coincide with the unfortunate spread of COVID-19, however, this program has been in the works for several months, now,” NYFA executive director Michael L. Royce said. “If a visual or media artist or choreographer catches the virus and meets the application requirements, their application will certainly be considered.”

Based on the foundation’s experience with the New York Arts Recovery Fund after 9/11 and the NYFA Emergency Relief Fund after Hurricane Sandy, Royce argues that “when it comes to emergency grants, the sooner the funding can go out, the quicker individuals or organizations can regain their footing.”

A Blade of Grass’ executive director Deborah Fisher said the funder is confirming its 2020 Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art cohort, which comes with a $20,000 minimally restricted honorarium, and that “the most supportive thing we can do is go ahead and provide the funding now, and then collaborate with each artist to create terms that will make sense for that support, given the new realities of their projects.”

Other examples of funders providing COVID-19-related emergency funds to artists and organizations include the Vermont-based CERF+, the Denver-based Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, and the Minnesota-based Springboard for the Arts. I encourage you to check out 303 Magazine’s ever-growing guide to resources and emergency grant opportunities for artists and creatives affected by the coronavirus.

2. Relax restrictions and loosen requirements

Echoing the sentiments of Edward W. Hazen Foundation CEO Lori Bezahler’s piece laying out philanthropy’s to-do list during the COVID-19 pandemic, those I spoke with encouraged funders to relax restrictions “even if their sponsored projects are not going forward,” Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance’s Howe said. “It will also be necessary for institutional funders to loosen requirements for restricted grants so that grantees can keep the lights on, and artists can put food on their tables.”

“Beyond sharing and spreading the word about emergency resources that are available now, funders should be loosening restrictions on grants and embracing flexibility on the usage of funds,” Creative Capital’s Delvalle said.

Hewlett Foundation’s Ono and her team have told their grantees that “we’re flexible about grant requirements, and are inviting them to contact us about their needs, particularly for project-based grants where our funds were for a specific conference, event, or body of work that might have to be canceled or postponed.”

And while MacArthur Foundation provides its organizations with crucial general operating support, “it is obviously not sufficient at this time,” Palfrey told me. In response, the foundation may offer additional general operating support grants, extensions to grant terms, and targeted project budget reallocations. Check out MacArthur’s letter to its grantee partners laying out its response to COVID-19 here.

3 – A COVID-19 response to-do list

The launch of the NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund, which will be overseen by the New York Community Trust, is a welcome development because it lays out how funds will assist arts organizations and social services groups. The initiative will provide grants and no-interest loans for needs including:

  • Unrestricted, flexible funding to support new and emergency needs and meet community demands, particularly for service offerings outside normal operations required to respond to social distancing, isolation and quarantine
  • Technology to support remote work and services—laptops and remote calling capacity for staff, securing staffing and training to fulfill their mission
  • Temporary staff support to cover for shortages caused by employees who are ill, may have to quarantine, or stay home to care for family members or children during school closures
  • Equipment and supplies such as masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and cleaning supplies
  • Additional cleaning services to augment in-house operations

An advisory committee formed by public health, community development, and arts leaders will allocate the funding, giving priority to those supporting essential healthcare and food insecurity. The Community Trust will continue to solicit donations.

Meanwhile, MacArthur’s Palfrey told me that local arts funders are considering a fund parallel to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. The city’s arts organizations have asked funders to consider all of the following action items:

  • Create a pooled fund that can support both organizations and individual artists; design the fund to operate with maximum efficiency, and with minimal proposal and reporting requirements
  • Consider making larger grants and “topping off” existing grants
  • Make bridge loans to organizations that are in need of immediate funds and that have capacity to generate income later to repay the loan
  • Offer financial management and capacity building advice to organizations
  • Buy tickets to or sponsor events that had to be canceled to help organizations recover the funds they typically obtain through fundraising events
  • Provide general operating support and, where possible, convert project grants to general operating support grants

You’ll note that both lists include general operating support. This is no coincidence. “Because a full 70 percent of Hewlett’s performing arts grants are general operating support, we’ve been making sure grantees understand those funds can and should be used for whatever their organization determines is most needed,” Emiko Ono told me. “Coping with this type of unanticipated event is an important part of why we tend to give unrestricted grants to many organizations that we support.”

Other suggestions from people I spoke with include:

  • “A helpful rewrite of a project grant can have a line item that covers artist fees for all canceled events, helping them to secure their income and keep nonprofit leaders from having to make the ‘tough choices’ to leave artists unpaid,” said A Blade of Grass’ Fisher. “There also needs to be unrestricted support of salaries and other indirect costs, so that staff can feel secure and there are venues to go back to.”
  • M + D’s Cowley Wolf and McManus noted that this crisis is coming at a time when many organizations host their annual galas. They encourage donors who have purchased a ticket to roll it over as a gift to the institution. “The same applies to any programming fees,” they said. “Let the organization know they may use this as a donation. And most importantly, communicate that the organization can allocate it toward any purpose they deem necessary during this crisis.”
  • Kate Levin, head of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Arts program, also zoomed in on the museum space. These organizations have buildings to maintain and artwork to secure, in addition to payroll and other contracted services. Many organizations, she said, “are asking that supporters convert ticket purchases to general operating contributions, and honor funding commitments even though events and exhibitions won’t be happening as scheduled.”

The philanthrosphere’s response to COVID-19 serves as a reminder that funders can pivot with urgency and nimbleness when the moment calls for it. We’ll be keeping an eye on the fast-moving developments in the arts sector as they continue to unfold.

In the meantime, stay tuned for a follow-up article I’m writing—also based on interviews with leaders in the sector—regarding how philanthropy can use this moment to build a more sustainable arts sector once the present crisis subsides.

This article comes from Inside Philanthropy. click here for more resources.

ArtsEd WA Free Art Resources

ArtsEd Washington is a non-profit organization based in Seattle that works to create and implement successful arts education in schools. They have put together free curriculum resources that can be easily accessed online. So if you are looking for a way to do quality, art education at home, take a look below at the number of lessons provided for K-5th grade students. Each lesson includes a demo video, art images, and a downloadable lesson sheet. All the lessons also abide by Common Core requirements in Washington State.

Primary Colors, Kindergarten Lesson


Shapes within Shapes, 1st Grade Lesson

1st Grade:

Abstract Objects, 2nd Grade Lesson

2nd Grade:

Figures in Action, 3rd Grade Lesson

3rd Grade

Modeling with Color, 4th Grade Lesson

4th Grade

Color and Line for Mood, 5th Grade Lesson

5th Grade

Legacies: Exhibit Opening & Artist Reception

Opening Reception: Fri, Feb 29 5-7 pm Show Dates: Feb 29-April 12, 2020

Although this exhibit is closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Confluence Gallery can be contacted for artwork sales directly @, 509-997-2787

The Methow Valley is and has been home to several artists that have, over the years, shaped what we know of today as our thriving art community.  

While the valley began humbly enough as small rural towns based on mining, logging, agriculture, and ranching, a small enclave of talented dedicated forward-thinking artists had the insight and fortitude to develop a circle of artists and art spaces.  The circle widened, thereby influencing our local economy, schools, and how we approach what a healthy well-rounded community is.  (Artwork left, Archaeology of Grief, Acrylic on board by Tori Karpenko.)

Including long-standing Methow artists as well as those who have passed on, we hope to honor the artistic legacies they have created.  They have shaped our past and are paramount to directing our future in the Arts. Their steadfast dedication to the Arts and the survival of the rural artist has paved the way for artists and makers today.   

Curator- Joanne Marracci

(Artwork, Wilderness Journal, Bleeding Hearts, Oil.)

INFO/CONTACT:, 509-997-2787 DATES: Opening Reception: Show Dates: Feb 29-April 12, 2020 LOCATION: 104 Glover St. South Twisp, WA 98856

Information and Emergency Funding for Artists

This list is from ARTready.

Artist Trust Relief Fund.
The COVID-19 Artist Trust Relief Fund provides rapid response grants supporting critical needs of artists whose livelihoods have been impacted by COVID-19. 

The Actors Fund fosters stability and resiliency, and provides a safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals over their lifespan.

Freelance Artists can access this rich list of resources.

NAPAMA (North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents) provides COVID-19 information particular to performing artists, agents and managers. Their Resource List includes information related to airfare refund and/or cancellation policies, emergency fund and relief programs, sample communications, and more. A list of FAQs address questions including dealing with cancellations, how to mitigate losses, and more.

CERF+ The Artists Safety Net is focusing resources to assist artists who test positive for COVID-19 and require intensive medical care.

Foundation for Contemporary Arts: The Foundation for Contemporary Arts is creating a temporary fund to meet the needs of experimental artists who have been impacted by the economic fallout from postponed or canceled performances and exhibitions with $1,000 grants.

Rauschenberg Emergency Grants: The fund provides one-time cash grants of up to $5,000 to cover expenses caused by one-time, unexpected medical emergencies. Eligible expenses include, but are not limited to: hospital and doctor bills (including insurance co-pays), tests, physical/occupational therapy, prescription drugs specifically for the emergency medical condition, and emergency dental work.

Musician’s Foundation: Grants typically range in amount from approximately $500-$3,000. All professional musicians, regardless of their genre or instrument, can apply for themselves or a family member. You must be a musician in a time of serious need, due to personal, medical, dental, or family crisis, natural disaster, or other emergency situation.

MusiCares: May grant short-term financial assistance for personal or addiction needs that have arisen due to unforeseen circumstances. Funding may be awarded for needs such as rent, car payments, insurance premiums, utilities, medical/dental expenses, psychotherapy, addiction treatment, sober living, and other personal expenses.

Authors League Fund: The Authors League Fund helps professional writers in financial need because of medical or health-related problems, temporary loss of income, or other misfortune by providing no-strings-attached “loans” to pay for pressing expenses.

PEN American Writers’ Emergency Fund: emergency grant fund is a small grants program for professional—published or produced—writers in acute or unexpected financial crisis. Depending on the situation and level of need, grants are in the range of $2,000.

Boston Artist Relief Fund: The Boston Artist Relief Fund will award grants of $500 and $1000 to individual artists who live in Boston whose creative practices and incomes are being adversely impacted by Coronavirus.

Women and Hollywood Amplify Filmmakers Affected by SXSW Cancellation: If your project has been affected by the cancellation of SXSW or another festival or event, and you doing something else to recoup the costs or attend another event down the road, Women and Hollywood wants to help you amplify your campaign.

ARTists online


Shop online during these uncertain times. Let’s support our local artists through their online shops, understanding that shipping may be impacted by the COVID-19 Outbreak.

The following are LOCAL ARTISTS who sell their work and services online. You can also find more regional artist information and work HERE on our ARTIST PAGES

We are updating this list daily. Artists, please contact us to be included @

Bryan Putnam, Printmade Apparel
Custom screen printing, artwork and embroidery
(509) 592-1993

Bethany Ridenour, Bristle and Stick
Handcrafted, locally-sourced brooms

Danbert Nobacon
Albums and singles

Don McIvor
One of a kind pieces from the lathe

Donna Keyser
Large scale graphic design, plein air painting, murals and other local arts

Emily Post Pottery
Handcrafted bowls, cups, mugs and other items

Erik Brooks
Illustrated children’s books

Foxtail Pottery
Mandy’s unique handmade dinnerware

Hannah Viano
Books for children and adults

Jenni Tissell, Weathered Soul Jewelry
Jewelry, clothing, bags and belt buckles

Kevin Nielsen, The Lumen Naturae
Cintamani Stones & Jewelry

Lindsey Martin, Esoteric Odyssey
Loose organic & wildcrafted incense

Mark Easton
Journals and The Monster Books of Jokes

Mary Kiesau, Mountain Kind Photography
Ready to hang wall art, calendars, and card sets

Michelle Brouwe, Wild at Heart
Fine silver designs

Nicole Ringgold
Stone and botanical jewelry

Paula Christen
Original watercolors and prints

Phoebe Rudd, Bitterroot and Brass
Handcrafted earrings

Rod Weagant
Plein air and studio paintings

Shannon Polson, author of North of Hope, The Grit Factor, and The Little Book of Grit

Tamera Abate
Encaustic paintings

Winthrop Gallery
View samples of work by local artists, and contact the gallery to purchase

We are updating this list daily. Artists, please contact us to be included in this list @ You can also find more regional artist information and work HERE on our ARTIST PAGES

ARTists, need assistance? Methow Arts is open and our employees are working remotely to assist our ARTists, ARTs & Cultural organizations, students & parents, with free resources, application assistance and advice., 509-997-4004

Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak: Resources to Help Nonprofits

By Margie Fleming Glennon 


Whether you are guiding staff about travel or remote work arrangements, wonderingwhat other groups are doing in response to Covid-19, fielding donors’ questions about your nonprofit’s response or the impact on planned events, or worrying that the virus will dampen your fundraising, it’s a lot to handle. e, help you plan swiftly, and keep you focused on your most pressing priorities. 

If you know of a resource we should include, please share it with me.

How to Manage, Lead, and Communicate

Leading During a Pandemic
A free online town hall meeting hosted by Independent Sector on Friday, March 20 at 2 p.m. Eastern will offer advice on how to make sound decisions for “staff, volunteers, and the communities we serve.” Designed for heads of organizations and top executives, but all are welcome. 

Coronavirus Advice for Nonprofit Leaders
By Sara Gibson, CEO, 20 Degrees. Includes tips for communicating during a crisis, strengthening financial resilience, preparing for disruptions to operations, and planning long-term in the wake of the virus. Three Quick Tips on Crisis Management for Nonprofit Leaders
By Alex Counts. Includes advice on managing your trustee relationships in a crisis.How to Use Scenario Planning to Prepare for Covid-19By Trista Harris. Advice for charities and foundations. Iincludes a simple tool for conducting a brainstorming session about possible future challenges and opportunities.

Business Continuity Plan TemplateA sample business continuity and disaster recovery plan to help nonprofits manage a disruption in operations. Provided by Nonprofit New York and temporarily free to non-members.

No Business Continuity Plan? Take These 4 Steps
The Nonprofit Risk Management Center offers a simple “quick-start framework” to use when your nonprofit faces an interruption to its operations.
HR Resources for Responding to Covid-19 Advice from NonprofitHR, including immediate steps to take to safeguard your workforce now and beyond the COVID-19 season, plus three free town halls:

  • March 16 Town Hall on Covid-19 preparation 
  • March 23  Town Hall on Employee Benefits (sick leave, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family-First Covid Response Act)
  • March 30 Town Hall on developing remote workforce policies 

What Nonprofit Board Members Should Be Doing Right Now to Address the COVID-19 Situation
By Joy Folkedal and Lindsay Tallman, BoardSource Blog. Trustees should provide steady leadership that is adaptive and supports the CEO.

Chronicle Resources

Communicating in a Crisis
How to put people and plans in place ahead of time so you can respond swiftly in the event of a natural disaster, tragedy, or bruising investigation. 

What To Do When Your Cause Is in the Spotlight: Lessons From the Amazon Fires
Rainforest-preservation and indigenous-rights groups saw a spike in donations and interest when fires in Brazil drew the world’s attention. What can your nonprofit learn from their experience?

10 Tips for a Better Crisis Communications Strategy
Nonprofit and crisis experts offer guidance on how to communicate effectively during a crisis.

How Charities Can Make Working From Home Work for Everyon
Nonprofit leaders who have virtual offices share advice such as:  establish guidelines, apply rules consistently, respect boundaries, adapt to technology as it develops, stay flexible, and more. 

Hard Times, Hard Decisions: 7 Things Small and Midsize Charities Should Do When a Recession Looms
With economists warning of an economic downturn, nonprofits and experts talk about what charities should do now to weather the storm.

Tips for Leading Your Team Through Stressful Times
Experts advise facing sources of stress head on and communicating frequently with colleagues about how you plan to address them.


Nonprofit Fundraising Events during Coronavirus – Virtual? Cancel? Postpone?
A video by charity auctioneer Abra Annes who offers advice on what to consider and how to make the call to cancel your fundraising event. Thanks to @AlexCounts for the recommendation.  

Tips for Deciding Whether to Hold or Cancel a Fundraising Event
By Swaim Strategies. Advice on how to assess the risks of holding an event, important messages to convey clearly, and how to decide whether to cancel or reschedule.

Market Drops and Crisis: Fundraising Lessons and Your Lighthouse
By John Pepperdine, principal, Making Philanthropy Work Strategies. Lessons from the Great Recession and the terrorism attacks of 2001 to inform your major-gift strategies in a time of crisis.

Chronicle Resources

5 Ways to Raise Money When Donors Are Consumed by Nonstop News
Don’t give up just because your cause isn’t the topic of the moment.

Why Fundraisers Should Take the Long View
Being patient and keeping all donors informed can result in big rewards. 

Technology Solutions and Remote Work

A Good Time to Get Good at Virtual Meetings
By Kristen Grimm, president of Spitfire. 12 tips for convening effective virtual meetings. Thanks to Nancy Jones @ThePossProj for the recommendation. 

Nonprofit Resources for Remote Work During the Covid-19 Outbreak
Published by Tech Soup. Includes options that can be implemented relatively quickly, with little or no external tech support to keep communication flowing and foster collaboration while staff members work remotely.

Understanding Videoconferencing Tools Available to Your Nonprofit
Published by Tech Soup. Includes a side-by-side comparison of different tools.


Chronicle Resources
Staying Healthy While Doing Good: Managing Stress in a Nonprofit Job
Tips for being productive at the office while preserving work-life balance.

Methow Valley 3rd graders create Textured Trees

March 2020

by Ashley Lodato

Education Director, Methow Arts Alliance


Third graders at Methow Valley Elementary School learned about the use of texture in art by creating engraved trees and soil. Scratch art is a type of direct engraving, which means cutting or incising an image into a surface.  

Scratchboards are a means of creating an image by starting with a black surface and scratching through it to reveal colored layers below. In the visual arts, texture is the perceived surface quality of a work of art. It is an element of two-dimensional and three-dimensional designs and is distinguished by its perceived visual and physical properties. We associate textures with the way that things look (implied texture) or feel (tactile texture).


Under the guidance of teaching artist Anne Venable, students scratched their trees, aiming to create coarse, rough, smooth, rugged, fluffy, lumpy, bumpy, polished, slick, jagged, irregular, and ridged textures on their trunks, limbs, leaves, and in the soil below. The textures are implied by the use of engraved patterns and crosshatching; they are the textures suggested by the artist, even though there is no texture to touch or feel.


Some of the artwork is displayed at the Methow Arts office on Glover Street in Twisp and can be viewed simply by walking past the building and looking at the framed art. Featured student artists are Methow Valley 3rd grade students Lyric Ashford, Harlan Bakke, Bayne Buzzard, Kaylee Cole, Zoie Dubowy, Rowan Kelley, Vinny Scarsella, Tova Slostad, Nolan Smith, Sutherland Stokes, Lucy Troyer, Avery Vracin, Oona Vanbianchi, and Jude Wicken. 

This residency was brought to students by Methow Arts’ Okanogan Region Arts Education Partnership.  The partnership serves more than 5,200 students and 370 teachers across Okanogan County with arts programs in classrooms in the Omak, Okanogan, Brewster, Bridgeport, Pateros, and Methow School Districts, and in the Paschal Sherman Indian School. Residency sponsors in the Methow Valley include the the Public School Funding Alliance, ArtsWA, the Methow Valley School District, Icicle Fund, the Robert B. McMillen Foundation, and the Methow Valley Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington


INFO: Methow Arts Alliance, 509.997.4004,

Daily Art Lessons for parents and kids

Deep Space Sparkle is an online resource often used by teaching artists at Methow Arts. DSS has recently put together content for art lessons at home for K-2nd, 3-4th, and 5-7th grade students. A PDF file of all the lessons can be downloaded for free via Deep Space Sparkle’s website:

To view the lessons individually, you can scroll down below where you will find them organized based on grade-level.

Mister Fish Drawing (K-2nd Grade Lessons)

K-2nd Grade Lessons
– Ted Harrison Polar Bear: Lesson, Video, Student Handout
– Simple Sandcastle Draw Along: Lesson, Student Handout
– Mister Fish Oil Pastel or Crayon Drawing: Lesson, Video, Student Handout
– Durer Pattern Rhino: Lesson, Video, Student Handout
– Frog Prince: Lesson, Student Handout

Simple Succulent Drawing (3rd-4th Grade Lessons)

3rd-4th Grade Lessons
– How to Draw a Castle: Lesson, Video, Student Handout
– Simple Succulent Draw Along: Lesson, Student Handout
– Spring Bunny: Video, Student Handout
– Watercolor Toucan: Lesson, Video, Student Handout

Mixed-Up Animal Sketch (5th-7th Grade Lessons)

5th-7th Grade Lessons
– Mixed-Up Animal Sketch: Lesson, Student Handout
– Royal Grid Drawing: Lesson, Video, Student Handout
– Buildings of NYC: Lesson, Video
– Viking Longship: Lesson, Video, Student Handout


To locate where to get art materials, Daily Business located in Twisp offers a number of art materials. INFO/CONTACT: 509-997-3625, 114 S Glover St, Twisp, WA 98856

Amazon is also a good resource to get art supplies as well as Dick Blick.

  1. Next Page »
  2. « Previous Page