Artscape’s Response to COVID-19: A Letter from Tim Jones, CEO
Dear friends and community members,
Covid-19 has reduced culture to a virtual shadow of what it used to be. Culture is the glue that holds our society together. It is how we express our identities, understand what is going on and build confidence for the future. Art plays a crucial role in shaping and renewing culture: it can shine a spotlight on truth, create moments of joy or inspire us to act. In times like these, we need to empower artists like never before to help us reflect, to rekindle our hope and to imagine a better future
Unfortunately, many of the artists we support are seriously struggling at this time. The gig economy that sustains them has virtually collapsed. A recent survey of Artscape members, tenants and owners found that at least 80% had lost income due to Covid-19 and 40% are on the verge of food insecurity. Immediate help is needed so that artists can lead the way in renewing our culture.
We are currently activating a plan to empower artists by providing support in three areas: relief, remuneration and recovery. To bring immediate relief from the financial hardship most of the artist within our community are experiencing, Artscape has initially focused its efforts on rent abatements and deferrals. We recently convened more than 30 creative hubs across the country to advocate for government relief. Last week’s federal announcements regarding Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program as well as $500 million in support for arts and culture sector support are encouraging signs that Artscape will be able to do more in providing rental relief.
Artscape Daniels Launchpad has quickly pivoted to begin offering free skills development and wellness programming for all artists through its Launchpad Learning Online and Virtual Wellness programs. Learn more about Launchpad’s online programming.
Additionally, together with partners across the country, Artscape is in the process of developing a virtual wayfinding service called artsUNITE / UNITÉ des arts. This new portal will connect artists from across Canada with resources and supports for financial relief, work opportunities, advocacy and knowledge sharing to help them better thrive economically and creatively both now and in the future.
We’re also committed to creating more paid opportunities for artists through our new social enterprise, Artscape Atelier. A Call for Artists submissions, issued on Tuesday, April 21, offers over $100,000 in paid work opportunities through our work with Lakeview Community Partners Limited. We have also been in talks with other city builders to generate many more project opportunities in the weeks to come. Learn more by watching this webinar recording of a session we presented with the Urban Land Institute.
Finally, the Toronto Artscape Foundation (TAF) is working to raise funds to support many of these initiatives, and future programs like the Launchpad Bursaries.
I am proud of what our team has been able to accomplish together with the arts community in just a few weeks, and know that with the tremendous creativity of our sector, so much more is possible. I hope this news lifts your spirits and offers optimism for the days ahead.