The Orange County Arts Commission announced a third round of emergency relief grants on Aug. 19, totaling $16,400 in financial assistance to various local artists and organizations as a part of the Orange County Arts Support Fund.
Since April, the fund has provided $57,850 in over a 100 grants for local artists and organizations. Individual grants ranged from $500 to $600 to assist with artists' loss of regular income due to the pandemic.
The commission said in a statement that the loss of audiences due to COVID-19 has made the arts one of the hardest-hit industries. These grants seek to help local artists with day-to-day expenses that have been offset by COVID-19.
Katie Murray, the director of the Orange County Arts Commission, said she had been thinking since the early days of the pandemic about how to help the artists who would be affected.
“Once it became very clear that the arts were going to be completely devastated by this, I just immediately started thinking, ‘What do we do?''' Murray said.
That answer was the Arts Support Fund, which since its inception has been almost entirely funded by individual donations.
“We’ve received grants through the North Carolina Arts Council and the Triangle Community Foundation, and we’ve received two gifts from the Manbites Dog Theater Fund, but everything else has been private donations,” Murray said. “It’s been a very grassroots effort.”
Murray said many donations have been made over a personal GoFundMe page the board set up. Another form of donation that she said she did not expect was over a dozen local artists creating and selling art for the sole purpose of donating to the Arts Support Fund.
“We did not ask artists to do that,” Murray said. “They contacted us and said, ‘I want to contribute something, and this is what I have to contribute.’ It’s been pretty humbling to see.”
Fred Joiner, the poet laureate of the town of Carrboro and chairperson of the Orange County Arts Commission Advisory Board, said he hopes the fund will give Orange County artists the strength to hold on and stay within the local community.
“My hope is that, first of all, it’ll give them hope that they can hang on. To see that they’re appreciated,” Joiner said.
Tim Carless, a local Orange County musician who was a beneficiary of the Arts Support Fund, said via email that his income had been greatly affected by the landscape of the last six months.
“The payment I received doesn't amount to my lost income," Carless said in the email. "But, I was able to put it towards some essential obligations, so it was timely and received with much gratitude. I'm very impressed with how the OCAC has responded to the needs of the creative community in Orange County.”
Joiner said he knows the fund can’t compensate for the income losses witnessed by local artists in recent months, but he hopes the fund can act as a small expression of gratitude for what the artists contribute to the community.
“Creative people give us a chance. They give us a chance to pause and take a peek in art that reveals something about our humanity. And so whatever funds we give to them is a small token of a thank you for that work,” Joiner said. “It’s just a small thank you to say ‘I see you. Thank you. Please stay here with us, and continue to create beauty for us.’"
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.