This Non-Profit Organisation Has Helped Launch A New Initiative To Support Artists Affected by COVID-19

BY Karim Aziz Oghly / Jul 2 2020 / 08:30 AM

Artadia recently helped found the Artist Relief Fund: the first major coalition solely dedicated to supporting individual artists affected by the pandemic, with emergency grants

This Non-Profit Organisation Has Helped Launch A New Initiative To Support Artists Affected by COVID-19
Courtesy of Artadia
Joiri Minaya, Installation view at Red Bull House of Art in Detroit MI, 2018

Artadia is currently all set to annouce their annual Chicago award program - which will support artists based in the city at any level of their career. The five Finalists for the 2020 Chicago Awards are Yvette Dostatni, Azadeh Gholizadeh, Caroline Kent, Yvette Mayorga, and Eliza Myrie.

Artadia recently celebrated the announcement of the awardees of their fifth annual New York award program - which supports artists at any level of their career, living within the city’s five boroughs. The two awardees – Alexandra Bell (b. 1983, Chicago) and Joiri Minaya (b. 1990, New York) – have received $10,000 in unrestricted grants each, at a time when finances for all industries – especially the creative – are tight.

The New York awards are just one of the many grants Artadia had been quietly awarding US-based artists for the past 20 years, with great thanks but little fanfare. However, in the current climate Artadia’s work has suddenly appeared more heroic- and urgent – than ever before.

And it doesn’t end there; responding directly to this growing need, Artadia recently teamed up with six US organizations - Academy of American Poets, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, National YoungArts Foundation, and United States Artists to help find the Artist Relief Fund - the first major coalition solely dedicated to supporting individual artists affected by COVID-19 throughout the US with emergency grants. 

Portrait of Artadia Awardee 2020, Alexandra Bell

Executive Director of Artadia, Carolyn Ramo said the organisation believes that visual artists are a vital part of our cultural communities – now and always: “During such deeply challenging times, we believe it’s paramount to continue our support of artists.”

Artadia has long been at the forefront of supporting emerging artists through philanthropic efforts including the giving of grants, the collection of art pieces, and aiding careers with the help of curators and established industry leaders.

To this day, over $5 million has been granted to over 335 artists across the United States, based in their target cities of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Alexandra Bell, Olympic Threat, 2017, Inkjet print on bond paper, 72” x 90” each; 72” x 180” combined

Described as an ally to artists through their support systems, unrestricted grants are the pedestal of the program; being unrestricted - artists may use the funds to support themselves in any way they see fit, Ramo explains.

Validation – as well as funding – is another crucial aspect of Artadia’s award program, according to Ramo. Through their application process, “important” curators are used as jurors to provide the artists with “incredible access to a critical dialogue,” she said.

According to Ramo, creating a diverse pool of finalists and awardees is also important to the organisation: all artists are encouraged to apply.

Alexandra Bell, A Teenager With Promise (Annotated), 2018, photolitho and screenprint, 44” x 35”each; 44”x 105” combined

Ramo said artists have always inspired her due to their ability to communicate the “intricate complications of our society and world.” Through her work with Artadia, she had been able to make a difference in the lives of artists, provide them with key funds and elevate the importance of artists to the world.

The Founder of Artadia, Christopher Vroom, explained the organisation “was founded with the ambitious goal of creating not only a national network of support for artists but also a greater understanding of the broad contributions artists makes to our society.” Vital work, especially in today’s landscape.

Portrait of Artadia Awardee 2020, Joiri Minaya

To demonstrate Artadia’s impact, 2019 Chicago Awardee Brendan Fernandes, provided an impressive case study. With a focus on race, culture, migration, protests and other forms of collective movement, Fernandes’ polarising hybrid work has been part of numerous installations.

Following his grant reception, Fernandes has displayed his projects at The Whitney Biennial and the Guggenheim, he is now currently partaking in a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship.

Joiri Minaya, Tropticon (2018), Aluminum, polycarbonate and perforated vinyl, 12 x 10 x 10 ft, Socrates Sculpture Park.

All this is no doubt being followed closely by those currently in the process of applying for the next San Francisco award cycle, which is currently accepting applications.

Adapting to the current climate, the studio visits for the shortlisted artists will be held virtually – but Carolyn is resolute that they continue,“ we know artists are especially threatened,” she explained, “so we’re committed to remaining proactive in our work, regardless the circumstances.’

Her words underline a noble and often overlooked commitment to artists which is perhaps easily eclipsed in an art world which too often focuses itself on big-name donors and bigger-numbers awards.

As the art world begins to find its feet following the pandemic, we can only hope that unsung heroes such as Artadia – who offer so much more than just financial grants – will continue to get the rightful appreciation. Our world is culturally richer for it.

Images courtesy of the respective artists and Artadia