Co-authoring the terms for a new future together.
From the desk of Adriana Gallego, Executive Director of AFTSA
Since joining AFTSA this April, I’ve been asked (often) what it’s like to start a job in the midst of a pandemic. My response? Well, I am not alone in this new reality. In many ways, we all started a new way of life this Spring. Considering the series of social, health, environmental and economic pandemics affecting our daily lives, I am aware of the privilege and meaningful responsibility that comes with my role serving as the Executive Director at AFTSA.
In light of the seismic shifts we are experiencing as well as the systemic and racial inequities being made evident by the force of this crisis, the Arts Foundation staff, board and volunteers have been adapting in real-time behind the scenes to be responsive, transparent, equitable and accountable to the communities we are beholden to. The work we have set into motion is only the beginning of an ongoing work-in-progress, and it will take collective input, action and imagination to rebuild the future that our shared communities deserve. Read along to see what we have been up to…
What challenges do we see?
Even with the aid of relief packages and community support, organizations are facing the difficult realities of insurmountable compounding effects and have had to sunset, lay off staff, cancel contracts with artists, furlough personnel and reduce pay for employees. The nature of social distancing places an additional burden on venues who bring art to life through large in-person social gatherings. In many cases, presenting and performing venues who rely on the availability of music, film and touring acts are in limbo until such national touring and distribution networks are active again. Meanwhile their fixed costs continue to accumulate.
At the heart and function of these organizations are the individual artists, culture bearers, arts administrators and contract workers who are also facing devastating loss. We are seeing job loss, food insecurity, studio evictions, loss of benefits, and increased familial responsibilities. The pressures in these cases are absorbed at a more intimate degree, without the support system that an organizational structure can provide or leverage.
And yet, the resilience of our creative workforce persists.
We continue to see ways the Arts community is innovating solutions. While some outdoor venues have been able to offset some of the effects of the pandemic through the summer off-season, indoor venues are introducing timed entries with safety precautions including limited attendance, small group rentals, hosting temporary outside offerings, or going completely virtual. Overall, we are hearing that the generosity of spirit from donors are at an all-time high, in some cases surpassing fundraising goals in unprecedented figures.
A path forward for the collective whole:
We also recognize the adaptive systems that our communities are having to rely on in this moment of crisis are not unfamiliar to many of our neighbors, colleagues and families who have lived with other more chronic systemic conditions that existed well before the pandemic. While the current economic and health crisis resonate indiscriminately throughout all of our communities, access to aid becomes exponentially harder to come by for our most remote communities and those who have been systemically and systematically disinvested.
During this time of heightened awareness and shared grief, we rely on each other for hope, for future-making, and for opportunities to think differently. Let us remember that it is our shared collective responsibility to uplift all of our communities, especially those who have endured these challenges long before COVID. Let’s not forget this moment—let us use it to course-correct outdated systems. Systems that oppress on the basis of conditions we are randomly born into: social status, race, culture, country of origin, gender and physical abilities. We cannot choose what situations we are born into, but we can choose to build on each other’s values, abilities and strengths, and use those differences towards more humane, equitable futures.
How we’re taking action:
I am fortunate to count on the braintrust of our team—Mary, Natalia, Jeff, Laura, Lauren, and Hannah—to actualize our response efforts now and into the future. Similarly, the guidance and support our board members have been quick to provide has been instrumental in navigating the unchartered terrains. In the same spirit, volunteer committee members, multi-sector local and statewide colleagues, artists and cultural producers have been sharing your concerns, your dreams, and your ideas towards reshaping the road ahead.
- Before end of 2020, the Arts Foundation will have stewarded and committed a record $1,000,000 in COVID-19 financial assistance from multiple sources to support artists and arts organizations throughout Southern Arizona. These investments in our communities are made possible thanks to the City of Tucson, Pima County, Arizona Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, Arizona Daily Star, and over 200 individual donors.
- In July, five community leaders from Sells and Tucson accepted the nomination to join the Arts Foundation Board of Directors during the Annual Board meeting. We are honored to welcome Lucinda Hughes-Juan, Yurika Isoe, Terrol Dew Johnson, Khailill Knight-Papaioannou and Ethan Orr. Their cumulative experiences in government, business, cultural policy, advocacy, education, and artistic production, are only surpassed by their commitment to equity and community. The Arts Foundation Board of Directors is now comprised of 17 intergenerational leaders across Tucson, Sells and Ajo.
- This Fall, the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona and the Arizona Commission on the Arts are working together with Unlock Creative to bring the Creative Flowers initiative to Arizona. “Creative Flowers Professional Sistah Circle for Pre-Career and Emerging Black Women Creatives,” is a program that focuses specifically on growing, nurturing, and keeping Black women in leadership within the creative sector, including the non-profit arts and entertainment industry. Stay connected with the Arts Foundation Newsletter to learn more about the program open call.
- This November, we reimagine one of our signature services—Open Studio Tours—to a fully virtual experience. The new conditions necessitate that we rethink the in-person event and pivot the offering in a way that still centers the economic opportunity at the core this ambulatory marketplace where artists traditionally generate income for their micro businesses. Rather than cancel this income-generating opportunity for artists, the Arts Foundation plans to migrate this marketplace to an online virtual offering that will leverage our partnerships and access to resources to ensure that artists are still able to make a living. To prepare artists for the adapted programming, we will offer technical assistance and resources to help them create or update their online presence and, similarly enable them to launch online point of sales platforms so they can sell their products.
- The Arts Foundation will soon be launching a new website, increasing accessibility to the latest news, resources, research and tools. The new look with come with more accessible features and interactive directories. Check back soon, to see the community-informed redesign come to life!
- In community and advocacy news, the team at the Arts Foundation is in close communication and partnership with local, regional and national partners, artists, funders and policy makers to ensure that your voice is counted. We sincerely thank you for continuing to stay in touch and letting us know how we can rebuild together.
- In Public Art, community and advocacy news, the team at the Arts Foundation is in close communication and partnership with local, regional and national partners, artists, funders and policy makers to ensure that your voice is counted. We sincerely thank you for continuing to stay in touch and letting us know how we can rebuild together.
Co-authoring the terms for a new future together
The staff, board and volunteers of the Arts Foundation have centered the community-informed strategic plan and vision for equity as the north star of how we can do better for the communities we serve.
Our vision to “affect systemic change that fosters an accessible, diverse, inclusive, and an equitable arts community” is not one that will be accomplished in silos. Our team is listening, ready to do the work and collaborate in making it so.