VENTURA, Calif.—The Ventura County Arts Council in partnership with CreativityWorks has launched the Creative Community Thomas Fire Recovery Grant program to provide financial help to artists who endured losses due to the Thomas Fire and debris flow. Applications are online at http://vcartscouncil.org/creative-community-thomas-fire-recovery-grants/, and will be accepted through August 1st. Awards will range from $250 to $2,500.
“All working artists who reside in Ventura County and whose creative careers were significantly impacted by the Thomas Fire or debris flow are eligible to apply,” said Tracy Hudak of CreativityWorks.
The grants, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council with additional support from the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation of Ojai, aim to hasten the recovery of working artists and creatives by investing in their work and connecting them with additional resources, Hudak said. Those who may want to make a tax-deductible contribution to the fund may do so at https://bit.ly/2LyVMii.
The creative economy in Ventura County accounts for nearly 20,000 jobs and generated $2.1 billion in economic activity, on par with agriculture, according to a 2008 report by the Ventura County Community Foundation. A 2012 report commissioned by the city of Ventura estimated that Ventura County hosts more than 2,300 professional artists, nearly double the national average.
Working artist is defined as an individual working in any artistic discipline or creative industry, including visual, literary, performing, music, folk, media or applied arts traditions, including those artists who adapted their practice for teaching, nonprofit work, healthcare, government or commercial applications. A creative career is one that actively developed or professionalized an art form through producing, presenting, promoting, or selling work or through teaching an artistic practice at the time of the fire in Dec. of 2017. Significant impact, for grant purposes, may include loss or damage of home or studio space, loss of a body of work or supplies, loss of income or other economic losses, disruption of career, or other impact.
“The need here is tremendous,” noted Hudak. Through a survey she conducted of nearly half of an estimated 95 affected artists, she found that many were already economically vulnerable. Seventy-five percent of the artists who shared their income levels earn less than $60,000 a year, with 42 percent earning less than $30,000. While the survey did not ask about employment, statistics show that the majority of artists are self-employed, making it difficult for them to report income losses on insurance claims and often making them ineligible for unemployment benefits. Additionally, 11 of the 20 artists who lost their homes were renters, who are less likely than homeowners to have their damages, evacuation and relocation costs reimbursed by insurance.
“Many artists suffered disruptions that were physical and emotional. The self-employed get particularly hard hit by disaster. For artists, who are 3.5 times more likely to be self-employed than other workers, stress and trauma can completely shut down productivity,” Hudak said. “Losing a home plus a body of work, in addition to losing the means to produce work is tragic.”
To further assist artists recover, there will be an Arts Response Forum, Sept. 12 from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation, 248 S. Montgomery, Unit A, in Ojai. Presented by CreativityWorks and the Long Term Disaster Recovery Group with support from the Arts Council and the Ventura County Community Foundation, the speakers will include artists, representatives from arts organizations and speakers from recovery groups that used the arts to assist in fire recovery efforts.
More information on the Making It forums, the grants and grant applications can be found on the Ventura County Arts Council website, http://vcartscouncil.org/creative-community-thomas-fire-recovery-grants/.
For nearly 20 years, the Ventura County Arts Council, an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit arts organization, has served Ventura County residents as the local arts agency designated by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to serve the county’s citizens in partnership with the California Arts Council. VCAC advocates for the arts and for increased arts instruction in schools, and fosters community development through the arts, serving county artists, arts organizations and the general public through partnerships with arts supporters, businesses, foundation, and community leaders. VCAC embraces diversity and strives to reach low income and minority communities with programs designed to engage this diverse population.