FARGO — Yesterday, a nationwide initiative called Artists Sunday set out to inch its way into the ever-expanding Black Friday mindset of sales before Christmas. Celebrated between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the movement has more than 4,000 members.

But even with more than 500 communities participating with 3,500 individual artists, it's safe to say the single day will come nowhere near to making up the $14.5 billion dollar national impact on the arts from COVID as recorded by an ongoing study by Americans for the Arts.

With most states facing millions in total financial impacts to the arts sector so far — North Dakota at $2 million and Minnesota at almost $30 million — more populated states are experiencing losses in the hundreds of millions.

For local people, the response has been to focus on buying local.

For arts organizations, the response has been to band together to set up their own relief funds to help individual communities and share with organizations in their regions.

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The St. Paul-based Springboard for the Arts announced earlier this month that it would provide grants of $40,000 as part of the Upper Midwest Emergency Relief Fund coalition in partnership with other nonprofits around the Midwest to be used with existing emergency funds or projects in their respective regions.

“Instead of hunkering down during COVID and hoping that the arts sector would survive, we’ve stepped up to provide better existing opportunities,” says Dayna Del Val, president and CEO of The Arts Partnership.

As part of the coalition, The Arts Partnership of Fargo-Moorhead plans to use the money to provide individual grants to artists working out of Aptitude, the arts incubator inside West Acres.

Ceramicist Tara Fermoyle as seen at Aptitude in West Acres. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
Ceramicist Tara Fermoyle as seen at Aptitude in West Acres. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Existing artists who work in ceramics, printmaking, jewelry and handmade home goods will each receive a full year of rent provided by the grant thanks to a private donor through Springboard for the Arts.

Additionally, four more studio spaces are able to be subsidized under the grants, and applications are open to artists working in any medium as the space allows.

Jewelry by Lacey Hagensen of Brown Bird Handmade can be found inside the Aptitude space in West Acres. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
Jewelry by Lacey Hagensen of Brown Bird Handmade can be found inside the Aptitude space in West Acres. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

Del Val’s work with Springboard grew out of her own initiatives to develop an emergency relief fund for arts organizations in the area. The collaboration reached across state lines and working titles to connect organizations through a page of coronavirus resources for artists, creative workers and organizations.

“This is really an opportunity to test that and to prove it,” Del Val says about the opportunity for collaboration in response to COVID-19.

Carl Atiya Swanson from Springboard for the Arts connects many of these conversations as associate director, operations and communications of the economic and community development organization, adapting the emergency relief fund structure originally started in 2001 into a model that can be dispersed to neighboring arts communities.

Ceramicist Tara Fermoyle owns and runs her own business out Aptitude inside West Acres. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
Ceramicist Tara Fermoyle owns and runs her own business out Aptitude inside West Acres. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership

“One of the most exciting things, and really one of the things that made the work a lot less lonely and a lot less scary, was to be able to host national calls for people doing emergency relief, mutual aid funding,” Swanson says.

And the need is still there as funding opportunities dwindle.

“If you're an individual person, a sole proprietor, sole creative person, who has made your living off of performing and teaching, and being in community, your prospects are still really limited right now," she says.

Artists interested in learning more about these grant opportunities can visit theartspartnership.net/other-support/.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.

Created by Fireline Neon Co., the blue light of this sign in the entrance of Aptitude serves as an invitation for artists to get in touch with their creative sides. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership
Created by Fireline Neon Co., the blue light of this sign in the entrance of Aptitude serves as an invitation for artists to get in touch with their creative sides. Ethan Mickelson / The Arts Partnership