The Covid-19 crisis shuttered most of the world's most prominent opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York. While Europe is starting to reopen with limited, socially distanced performances, the United States is bracing for the worst with most planned performances being postponed until 2021 and beyond.
This instability has created anxiety and uncertainty for the entire arts sector, with freelance performers being hardest hit financially. Many prominent artists woke up to find out their contracts were canceled by reading press releases and no recompense was offered.
Many artists have turned to other sectors to find work, with many pivoting to online education, but this is not an option for everyone. As we speak with colleagues, we are increasingly convinced that the message we have been disseminating over the last 18 months is the ONLY way for artists to thrive over the long term: we MUST develop ALL of our gifts and talents in order to thrive not only in our careers, but in our lives! The members of our community who already had side businesses before the pandemic occurred have been breathing a sigh of relief since lockdown and with good reason: it's hard to stay calm when you literally don't know how you are going to pay bills from month to month.
Artists are in a precarious position. Most of the messaging we receive within the industry and during our studies tells us that if we make money from any other source than music we are failures, and heaven forbid we take a double major. Well, if we have learned anything from this crisis, it's that those people aren't going to magically show up at our home to pay our bills or help us onto another career path. So let's collectively agree that this attitude is canceled, stop perpetuating and accepting it, and start developing every single one of our God-given talents.
Some encouraging news is coming out of Jersey City, NJ today, as plans to propose a municipal trust fund for the arts will be voted on in exactly two weeks. This kind of funding would provide artists with a lifeline that would enable them to continue creating, even in economic downturn.
The Arts and Culture Trust Fund in Jersey City will provide a sustainable way to support local artists and arts organizations, many of whom are often underfunded even when things are "normal", let alone during the Corona virus crisis.
Here’s how it works: individuals and organizations can apply for funding by proposing a budget for how the funds would be used on a case by case basis. City council members will appoint a community member to review applications, and the community member will assess the applications and award the grants. According to Mayor Fulop, “its important to be investing in peoples' creativity and to allow that part of young people to flourish.”
The Arts and Culture Trust Fund will be funded by property tax revenues, which, according to Forbes contributor Christos Makridis, are not very sensitive to business cycle conditions. For example, his research finds that year-to-year changes in state employment and property tax revenues are not statistically or economically related. He goes on to elaborate that a long-term commitment to the arts and culture requires a sustainable revenue generating mechanism that is not subject to the whims of an areas’ business cycles, and this fund would provide that without an additional burden to citizens, like a new imposed tax.
This is an amazing step forward for local artists, and when successfully implemented could provide a model for sustainable arts funding throughout the United States. At Living Opera, we are not only thrilled to be included for commentary on this innovative initiative, but elated to see it go through in two weeks when people vote yes at the polls.
You can read the original article by Christos Makridis here on Forbes.