An overlooked population, artists, receive funding from First Peoples Fund to get by during COVID-19 closures

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted local economies. And one overlooked community that’s been especially hurt by shutdowns are artists.

An already financially vulnerable population, Native American artists, have seen performances, markets, gatherings and other events cancelled entirely. These venues are where artists make most of their profits from.

“I think that first month of march we saw, quickly, a loss of $38k that artist’s were experiencing, that had commitments scheduled that were quickly canceled,” said First Peoples Fund President, Lori Pourier.

First Peoples is a national organization that supports native artists and culture bearers. Their mission is to best support individuals who protect and sustain cultural practices of their communities.

F.P.F. surveyed 100 artists and found 97 percent of their respondents lost $150-35,000 in income during pandemic closures.

Around 79 percent of home businesses on the Pine Ridge Reservation are artist or traditional practice – based.

“We lost a lot the venues where we normally share our work. Art is about 45 percent of my income so when you’re working in the schools you’re not making much money,” said artist, Gene Swallow. [Gene Swallow was working as a mentor with Rapid City Area Schools but since closures, has been relying on his fabric work.]

The Resilience Fund was created to help 350 artists, currently with the organization, with housing, food, utilities and other expenses. Currently, 100 artists have been awarded up to $1,000 in funding, in 24 states. Pourier says thousands has been raised to support artists.

Rolling Rez Art bus – a project of First Peoples Fund – is providing internet and other resources during closures. But there other ways that even the public can help.

“I really want people to look at artists as local business too and maybe this is a time to seek out someone who is local or putting out work,” said Gene.

First Peoples Fund has many opportunities and resources available. NDN Collective also has opportunities affecting vulnerable, underserved populations such as their grant applications and the Artist and Entrepreneur Fund. In addition, National Endowment for the Arts has updated their website to include guidelines and resources for finding aid as an artist or grants that can be applied for.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Business, ConnectCenter1-Culture and Art, Coronavirus