The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 1st

Orange County Arts Commission starts support fund amid COVID-19

Renzo Ortega sits in his Carrboro studio. He is one of many Orange County artists and musicians who have experienced lifestyle changes as a result of COVID-19. The Orange County Arts Support Fund seeks to assist these artists through community donations. Photo courtesy Renzo Ortega.
Buy Photos Renzo Ortega sits in his Carrboro studio. He is one of many Orange County artists and musicians who have experienced lifestyle changes as a result of COVID-19. The Orange County Arts Support Fund seeks to assist these artists through community donations. Photo courtesy Renzo Ortega.

In the wake of COVID-19, the Orange County Arts Commission noticed a widespread cancellation of art events and concerts. To assist local artists and musicians whose livelihoods are now impacted, the commission established the Orange County Arts Support Fund.

The OCAC is accepting donations through checks, sent to their office, or online via GoFundMe

Katie Murray, director of the OCAC, said these cancellations create a need for financial support. 

“The arts are dependent on audiences,” Murray said. “When audiences can’t assemble, performers don’t have anyone to perform for and artists don’t have anyone buy their work.”  

Murray said she was inspired to start this fund because many of the events that she herself had planned for the spring were canceled. Her next thought was to plan a way to help the community, Murray said. 

“Then I thought, well, I bet if I put an online campaign out there, more people would donate to it and we could have a greater impact,” Murray said. 

Murray set the funding goal for $30,000, and she said she hopes this amount will be feasible and realistic. 

“So many different organizations are trying to raise money and, among people who can donate, their resources are being spread pretty thin,” Murray said. “So I’m just going to see how much we can do.” 

With the money raised, Murray plans to open online applications for those who seek the funding, one for individuals and one for organizations.

“With both, it’ll assess the impact of the closures, find out how much they need, and we’ll do our best to try to meet that,” Murray said. 

Murray noted that many artists are members of the gig economy, so they do not receive unemployment benefits or paid time off like most full-time employees. 

Although many Orange County artists’ work is hindered by the virus, some are doing what they can to help others in need. 

One such artist is Renzo Ortega, an artist who is selling some of his artwork and donating the proceeds to the Orange County Arts Support Fund. 

Ortega said he receives institutional support from many North Carolina arts organizations, so these donations represent a way to pay it forward. 

“I feel that this health emergency is an opportunity to support my fellow local artists and give back to my closer community,” Ortega said in an email. 

Ortega said that the schedule changes that come with self-quarantining have affected his family dynamics. He said the uncertainty of how long this virus will impact the community goes beyond financial need, affecting artists mentally and emotionally. 

Stephen Mooneyhan, a local musician and the former booking manager for Local 506, also noted how the inability to perform live has had an emotional impact on the community. 

“Performing is the kind of thing you do to relax, and it’s very different than sitting in your apartment,” Mooneyhan said. 

Many bands are streaming concerts in order to reach their audiences, Mooneyhan said. While it’s not the same as watching live performances, he said this may help people still feel connected with the music scene from their homes.

Ortega said one of his coping mechanisms is to keep his art studio discipline alive. He said he is getting through this tumultuous time by looking for moments of silence and introspection. 

Murray said she believes the thriving arts community will find a way to surpass the impact of COVID-19. 

“I always say music is our greatest export in Orange County because going back many years, we have got so many musicians and bands that have come out of this area,” Murray said. 

Ortega emphasized the need for compassion and empathy, not only for artists and musicians but for the greater community. 

“Art is not a commodity,” Ortega said, “We artists are people with feelings and fears, we are part of the community too.” 

He said it is important for Orange County not to neglect artists and other service workers who are financially, emotionally, and mentally hindered. 

“Do not leave artists alone, because art is always going to be with you.” 

arts@dailytarheel.com

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