The shutdowns that have come as an effort to stifle the spread of COVID-19 have already had an immeasurable impact on locals and their livelihoods. As cases continue to rise and the future remains uncertain, organizations are rolling their sleeves up and thinking outside the box in attempts to support those in need.
One of group hit particularly hard is the artistic sphere, as performances, exhibitions and events have been cancelled and storefronts remain closed. The Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge is responding with what it does best: getting creative. Today marked the first of a series of weekly Artist Talks, which allow local creatives to meet up–though remotely–and talk through struggles and possible solutions.
“Our staff really wanted to connect with artists in the community,” explains Renee Chatelain, president and CEO of the Arts Council, noting the advantages of being able to see and speak to one another through the virtual meeting space Zoom. “We want the conversation topics to come from the artists, though we will be sharing what information we have about resources, financial aid and ways to connect to the larger community. The Arts Council can help to foster aid, support ideas and bring voice, but we need to know what our artists have on their minds.”
One important element to the weekly meetings is that they are closed to the public. Limited to 30 attendees, Chatelain says that keeping the sanctity of the conversations is important to establishing a safe and constructive space for everyone. However, resources and ideas formed in the meetings will be shared through the council.
One resource the Arts Council already has in its arsenal is its Creative Relief program, which was founded in response to the 2016 flood. Offering financial aid and other resources to local artists and creatives, the program is a way for the community to directly extend its support.
“If people donate to Creative Relief, we can fund artists and arts organizations quickly, which is key right now,” Chatelain says. “Other grant programs, loan programs for small businesses and the like, can experience delays or have distribution periods that may take months before any money is distributed. Creative Relief funds, if people donate, can be distributed to applicants a bit sooner.”
In addition, Chatelain notes that the council is connected with local partners like the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, as well as national disaster planning and relief platforms that allow the council to connect creatives with the aid they need.
“Right now, all of our projects are geared toward COVID-19 relief,” she explains. “Creative Relief is a main focus so that when all of this is over, our arts community is stronger and better than before.”