LOS ANGELES — Originally scheduled to open in March, Art Share LA Executive Director Cheyanne Sauter was forced to close their exhibit before they even opened. She then had to cancel 60 scheduled events and refund over $4,500 back to clients. Since COVID-19 changed the business of art, it’s been a struggle to stay solvent and find new ways to showcase art.
“We’re finally getting to a place where staff and the artist are taking the show virtual,” said Sauter. “So we have a 3D gallery that we’ve set up. We’re going onto Artsy to show this artwork and I think most importantly, these 16 artists are going to be able to see their work that we’ve been preserving for them for four months.”
Thankfully, Sauter received funds from the California Community Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust as part of the Relief Fund for L.A. County Visual Artists. Designed to support arts organizations and individual artists, the grant has given her the freedom to explore the needs of the arts community as they come to terms with a pandemic.
“So we have to get new chairs. Nobody wants to sit on fabric any more,” said Sauter after stacking some chairs.
Sauter estimates they’ve lost $65,000 in revenue since the shut down, so the grant was a much needed relief. She’s used the funds to invest in new chairs, video and audio equipment for live streaming, as well as sound-proofing in an effort to convert former classrooms to podcasting studios.
“So one thing artists are asking for is more digital space, more digital services,” said Sauter after entering one of the many classrooms inside Art Share LA. “We have 14,000 square feet of space so we really have to reimagine how these classrooms can provide this platform for artists.”
Only 11% of public schools in California meet state goals for arts instruction so these arts organizations are critical for artists and art students to continue their practice, especially while galleries and schools are closed. Betty Avila of Self Help Graphics and Art in East LA agrees artists need help now more than ever.
“It really is about equity,” said Betty Avila, Executive Director of Self Help Graphics and Art. “Right, who gets access to resources generally even without the pandemic? We understood very quickly that the artist was going to feel that impact right away.”
Self Help Graphics has been a destination for Latinx artists since the 70s. Also able to get a grant from the Relief Fund, they plan to continue their printmaking classes, but virtually.
“We need these organizations to not go away right now because we need them when the pandemic is over and are at least in a better place to open up our spaces and to serve the community,” said Avila. “I think that, that’s a critical element that should be called out.”
In all, 80 arts organizations were helped by the grant and Sauter is grateful to be one.
“We all understand that arts and culture is so important and so vital to the survival of our community, so we need to support it,” said Sauter. “Grants like Getty Foundation are fantastic and really gave us that runway that we needed to start thinking into the future, but we need more support from city officials, county officials and more to keep us going and growing."
Relief for artists means relief for the rest of us
Click here if you’re interested in donating to the Relief Fund for L.A. County Visual Artists.