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Today marks one year since we closed our offices, started working from home, and opened up our Personal Emergency Relief Fund for Coronavirus relief. The year that followed has been full of challenges, compounding crises, and heartache. 526,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 over the past year, and our community rituals of celebration and mourning have been disrupted, and that has touched our staff and colleagues. We hope for better days ahead and hold their memories with us.

In this crisis, the arts and culture sector has been hit especially hard. At this time last year, we were watching people’s livelihoods for the year disappear in a matter of days, as performances, commissions, teaching jobs, and other opportunities were canceled. These losses are not only economic, they also represent a huge loss of creative work and opportunity. Although artists have found ways to adapt and keep us connected through this pandemic, we’re still a long way from returning to regular programming – and we know that regular programming, with its lack of safety nets for self-employed people, extractive systems, and inequities in access and funding is not the goal.

A performer in a blue mask with monarch butterfly puppets in front of a colorful set

Performance organized by Esther Ouray at Dreamsland in Minneapolis, part of Springboard for the Arts’ Artists Respond: Combating Social Isolation, November 2020. Photo credit: Bruce Silcox.

Over the last year, Springboard has worked hard to respond to the needs of our communities as quickly as possible. Our focus has been on direct emergency aid, assistance to creative small businesses, and support for artists to address the impacts of multiple crises on their communities.

Through the Personal Emergency Relief Fund we have distributed over $1.25M to almost 2,600 artists, creative workers, and culture bearers in Minnesota and we helped over 80 other communities get their own emergency relief funds up and running. We’ve adapted our programming to deliver 135 virtual workshops and 347 one-on-one career consultations for artists. We supported over 100 artists to design and implement community-based projects through our Artists Respond program, brought on a cohort of 10 20/20 Fellows, and hosted 7 artists for virtual Hinge Arts residencies. We couldn’t do this work without community support – thank you.

This year has shown how fragile our ecosystems can be, and also how resilient we are. Artists and their creativity have kept us connected and engaged, helped us celebrate and held our grief. As we continue our work and plan for what’s to come, creative people power will be a force that helps us imagine and build a better future.

Ta-coumba Aiken Painting for Artists Respond: On Plywood

Artist Ta-Coumba Aiken in front of his mural on University Avenue in Saint Paul as part of Springboard for the Arts’ Artists Respond: On Plywood, June 2020. Photo credit Uche Iroegbu.