The recent deluge of event cancelations has hit not only ticket holders but artists.
“We felt it with that first wave of cancelations,” said Maureen Sager, the executive director of The Upstate Alliance for the Creative Economy.
With more than 16,000 freelance musicians, artists and writers in the Capital Region, the mandates surrounding COVID-19 and theaters, restaurants, and concert venues have put a dent in their main income source.
“We’re good at reacting but this just happened super fast,” Sager said.
As of last week, Carmen Lookshire, who is a Colonie-based musician, had gigs lined up for the next few weeks. Now, most of them have been canceled, with more cancelations being announced each day.
“It’s hurting getting money and paying bills because I’m a full-time musician. I left my 9 to 5 two years [ago] this May. That alone was a hard jump to make and now people are going to be like ‘See this is why you don’t leave your state job,’” Lookshire said.
At this time, self-employed artists aren’t sure where to turn to get immediate assistance, especially because they're not necessarily eligible for unemployment benefits or paid sick leave, according to Sager.
For most, it’s too soon to tell how much of a financial impact this will have on them, said Sager.
“We’ll get to know that more in the coming weeks as to how that’s going to look. Right now there’s just a lot of fear because there’s a lot of unknowns as to how things will turn out. We all can get the sense that this is a precarious situation. . . .[However], I don’t know that people [are] feeling like it’s beyond us,” Sager said.
ACE’s inbox is always open and Sager recommends artists who are in need reach out to their local arts centers.
“I think that the arts centers and the galleries in their areas all have strong resources and strong networks so the people that you’re connected with, start there,” Sager said.
The Albany Center Gallery has already created a Facebook support group called Creative Impact, where artists are coming together to discuss different freelance opportunities and resources.
“Working together with other local organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurs, we are building a virtual space for creatives looking for artist opportunities or resources during this time of COVID19 social isolation. We wanted to create a space for ALL, where ART is the priority. Please use this space to communicate, collaborate, and create. Let’s keep the arts thriving, especially during times of struggle for our community,” the gallery posted.
In another Facebook group, called NY Capital Region COVID-19 Support, many artists and freelancers are coming together to share everything from immediate basic needs to information about potential gigs and funding opportunities.
“Since the current climate for artists, freelancers, and service industry workers in our community is absolutely terrifying, a small group of us want to do what we can to support this community of invaluable folks,” posted the group's founder, Sarah Heikkinen.
To cope with the lost revenue from canceled gigs, Lookshire has started offering website design services as well as crocheted products.
“It’s interesting because I feel like I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. I have experience in web design. I made my own website and I worked with different organizations in setting up their websites and maintaining them. Because we’re artists, we dabble in all things that are creative anyway. You have to use all your experience,” Lookshire said.
She’s also going to continue to hold live performances, just virtual ones. She often performs and shares videos via Instagram Live, especially since her new album, “For Love,” came out. While some followers told her she should monetize the videos, she wants to avoid that.
“This is something that people need for boosting their hope and their morale. I want to keep it free for now,” Lookshire said.
Other local musicians are also planning to post live shows on social media and Caffe Lena, among other venues, is helping live music live on by streaming select upcoming performances on YouTube and encouraging viewers to donate.
In the coming weeks, Lookshire knows that she and many other artists will be dealing with constantly changing challenges, but she isn’t too daunted by the prospect.
“I know that people are anxious but I think it’s really an amazing time for creative problem-solving,” Lookshire said.
Resources for local artists (recommended by the Albany Center Gallery):
For emergency funding:
New York Foundation for the Arts