As events, performances, and conferences were canceled due to the global pandemic, Pinellas County artists, arts organizations, and small creative businesses faced a severe financial setback. To answer their needs, PCF launched the Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund in collaboration with St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, Creative Pinellas, and community donors.
Established with nearly $135,000, the fund provided financial relief to those in the arts community adversely impacted by COVID-19. Now, if future needs arise and resources are available, the fund can serve the cultural arts community during similar emergencies.
Donors who support the Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund now have a central place to sustain artists, arts organizations, and small creative businesses who face immediate and urgent financial needs directly caused by an emergency or disaster.
The unrestricted cash awards from this fund address important community needs:
- Lost wages and earnings.
- Bridge support to unemployment and food stamps.
- Rent and mortgage payments, food, utilities, and other living expenses.
In Their Own Words
Not surprising is that the two groups who sprang into action with PCF, St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Creative Pinellas, are symbiotic, mission-driven organizations dedicated to supporting the creative arts community.
The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance is an umbrella organization that serves the vital arts and cultural community of the City of St. Petersburg. The Alliance facilitates the growth of the arts community and arts-related economic development in St. Petersburg.
Creative Pinellas is a countywide organization that facilitates a vibrant, integrated, collaborative, and sustainable arts community that propels Pinellas County as an arts and cultural destination.
This was more than organizations coming together to raise funds. It was a powerful response letting people know they had a future.Barbara St. Clair, Creative Pinellas CEO
By Easter 2020, following the statewide shutdown order, the Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund had just been created. In fact, funds were already in the bank, and applications for financial relief were being reviewed.
John Collins, Executive Director of St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, remembers the date well. He worked through the Easter weekend to send checks to over 200 applicants on behalf of the fund to keep artists, performers, and musicians afloat.
While COVID-19 devastated the arts community, John and Barbara found a positive way to help. As an outgrowth of the pandemic, both organizations are helping their constituents strengthen their business model, including boosting their Internet presence via websites, videos, virtual performances, and online art sales.
Business initiatives like these were new to many artists and performers who were accustomed to earning their living at the grassroots level. Many visual artists relied on local art shows to sell their works, especially St. Petersburg’s Second Saturday ArtWalk, which was suspended for months. Others who relied on gallery sales, theater performances, or large event venues were also left with no source of income.
COVID-19 catapulted the arts business to the Internet. Now, [artists] can have a viable presence online that will be there for them for the future. John Collins, Executive Director of St. Petersburg Arts Alliance
John believes Musicians and performers were hit the hardest. Today, St. Petersburg Arts Alliance and Creative Pinellas are helping them learn to make money outside of live performances. “They are learning how to present themselves online, such as using YouTube,” John said.
Barbara explained how the arts industry changed since COVID-19, “Doing business online was not necessary for survival. Now it is.” She thinks the creativity that artists possess helped their resiliency. “They are trained to create in ways the rest of us don’t have the experience to think about,” she said.
Thanks to the collaboration with PCF, the cultural arts community is learning to build a bridge to a new future.