Since my mission is to cover the performing arts as thoroughly as possible, I try to acquaint myself with any and all arts leaders throughout Central Indiana, but there is one individual who has eluded me. Like all the other items on my to-do list that I now have plenty of time to accomplish while in quarantine, I can add an interview with Julie Maslov Goodman, CEO of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, as a completed task. Recently, Goodman, who has been on the job since March of 2019, spoke to me by phone from her home, where she’s cooped up, like most of us.
The impetus for the interview was a notification from Amanda Kingsbury, a former IndyStar staffer who is ACI’s newly hired communications director, informing me of the Indy Arts & Culture COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. In partnership with the Arts Council of Indianapolis, a coalition of community funders will provide nearly 800 rapid-response grants to help recoup some of the lost wages that leave many members of our creative community vulnerable.
Thanks to gifts of $50,000 each from the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Inc., Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), Christel DeHaan Family Foundation, Efroymson Family Fund, Glick Philanthropies, and Herbert Simon Family Foundation, the $300,000 fund is expected to reach $400,000 with the addition of other gifts and donations through a public campaign.
ACI saw the need for the fund based on the cancellations and closures of more than 1,000 Indy arts and culture events and venues amid the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting some 30,000 artists, administrators, affiliated workers and 125+ of the city’s arts and cultural organizations.
“It was amazing. We did a quick impact survey when all of this started to escalate with individual artists and organizations and we had a huge response,” said Goodman. ACI launched the survey on Friday, March 13 and closed it on Monday, March 16. In that short amount of time, 700 artists and more than 100 organizations had responded. “It was unbelievable,” Goodman said. “We shared all that data with the coalition of funders on Tuesday, then watched this fund with $150,000 on Thursday double within a week’s time. That’s Indianapolis. It’s been amazing.”
Goodman said she’s grateful the funders responded so quickly, on behalf of the people whose incomes evaporated and for those who may not be in a dire situation yet, but are really anxious about the future. As for the community spirit demonstrated, she said, “We’re seeing it in every sector. It is happening across the city, in neighborhoods and all over our state. There isn’t a single person, or family or business or sector that is immune from this. There is so much challenge. So much suffering related to this situation.” She said public health and safety is the top priority, of course, but something else of note is the renewed appreciation of the value and role of arts and culture, now that nearly everyone is turning to music, television, film, books and art to occupy and comfort them during the crisis.
Besides the financial considerations, the fund is encouraging artists to keep working and share their virtual content on social media using the hashtag #IndyKeepsCreating. “The second we started to see this escalate and started to see the closures and the cancellations, the creative and artistic community jumped,” Goodman said. “It’s a way for artists to cope, shield and connect and recover through their work.”
Thus far, over 480 applications for the grants from the Indy Arts & Culture COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund have been received. Goodman shared a couple of quotes from thank-you notes received from two of the recipients. One read, “We have been scared in our household, but this is a ray of sunshine in the darkest time we have ever faced.” Another read, “This is so incredibly moving and helpful. It is bringing me to tears in such a positive way. I can now cover my health insurance for two months.”
Goodman also provided the following list of examples of how artists, musicians and organizations are participating in the #IndyKeepsCreating campaign:
- Polina Osherov of PATTERN, along with People for Urban Progress, Crimson Tate, Indiana Fashion Foundation, and other organizations, collected fabric donations and mobilized volunteers to cut and sew protective masks for health-care workers. Osherov’s StitchWorks initiative also organized an effort to sew 2,500 isolation gowns for Eskenazi Health.
- The Center for the Performing Arts started a #CPAQuarantineKaraokeVideo campaign to engage its fans/audience. The deadline to submit is April 14. Winners will get tickets to a future “Center Presents” performance.
- Indianapolis Art Center’s popular Make It Take It classes (for adults & kids) are going to move online soon, reframed as “View It Make It.”
- Phoenix Theatre is offering fun, lively Lunch Club online acting classes with topics like digital improv and audition basics.
- Two local hip-hop talents recently traded songs across a 20-round Instagram Live battle.
- Big Car Collaborative got creative with April’s First Friday by asking people to share their favorite artwork at home using the #FirstFridayAtHome hashtag. The organization is also doing a lot of new arts & culture programming on WQRT Radio.
Concluding our conversation, I asked Goodman what she thought the long-term effects of the pandemic would be on not only artists, but the community in general, to which she replied, “These are character-defining moments. The community is showing that in such important, beautiful ways. I see it every day I am reaching out, asking for help from people across sectors, our city partners, people with talent in HR and legal perspectives and asking for help in bringing those resources and connect folks in the general sector. Every single time, the answer has been ‘Yes. I’ll be there.’ It has just been incredible. And I think the arts and culture community is responding the same way by showing up and becoming innovative, generous and creative in what they are doing to maintain the relationships they treasure with their community and each other.”
To apply for funding from or donate to the Indy Arts & Culture Emergency Relief Fund, go to https://indykeepscreating.org/