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The Allied Arts Fund Role During The Pandemic
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Jackie Hendry: As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, artists have had to find a lot of new ways to make money. While organizations, like Allied Arts Fund in Rapid City have had to be pretty creative themselves, looking at new options for raising funds. I'm joined now by GiGi Lage, Executive Director of Allied Arts Fund in Rapid City. They support several organizations working to keep the arts alive during this unpredictable time. GiGi, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today.

GiGi Lage: Thank you, Jackie, for having me on. I really appreciate it.

Jackie Hendry: I know that the Allied Arts Organization is looking to form an emergency financial assistance fund dedicated for artists. What can you tell us about this emergency fund?

GiGi Lage: Well, we took a look at what the needs were based on, the Americans for the Arts had a COVID impact survey that we sent out to our arts agencies. We got responses back from that, and 80% of them said that they do not yet have a plan to recover from the crisis. 36% said they had savings to cover three months of expenses, only 20% right now have that. It looked like only 31% have work outside of their non-creative jobs. 49% had been furloughed or laid off. 80% reported decline in revenue generating creative productivity.

When we took a look at that, we thought what's the most important thing to do right now? We started our Artists Relief Fund. It's open to all self-identifying artists in multiple disciplines whose income has been impacted, as we have seen through the survey, and who need assistance with basic expenses such as food, rent, medical costs and childcare.

Jackie Hendry: Is this a fund that folks can access or donate to? Where are these funds coming from?

GiGi Lage: We started off with a $500 matching grant from an artist here in Rapid City that thought that this was so important for us to go ahead and start. We've put it out to our donors and patrons that this fund will be available for artists, and we've asked them to donate through our website at alliedarts.org. We've asked our patrons and artists that want to support each other to help us with this relief.

Jackie Hendry: Interesting. I know in your work with artists around, I know especially when it comes to live music events, of course most places aren't able to hold those anymore, so things are moving online to Facebook Live or something like that. I'm curious, are you hearing about artists or even encouraging artists to make use of things like Venmo or PayPal so that people around are able to maybe pay them for what they're able to do online right now?

GiGi Lage: Exactly. We definitely have. We've seen so many of arts agencies that have taken to Instagram and Facebook and they're doing live from home performances, virtual experiences of the arts. And a lot of them have put those donation requests right there during that live feed. Community theater has been doing their theater and they've asked for donations right there on Facebook. It's something that we definitely are looking to help them with. If they're not able or they don't have a PayPal account, they definitely can have those donations made to the Allied Arts and then we definitely will earmark those for that organization so that those funds go directly to them.

Jackie Hendry: And of course there's an ever growing list of events of all kinds that are either being canceled or converted to an online format because of the pandemic. I know one event coming up in June related to your organization is Make Music Black Hills. What can you tell us about that event and adjustments to that?

GiGi Lage: Yes. Exactly. Well, if you're not familiar with Make Music Day, it is a worldwide celebration of the summer solstice on June 21st and it's a thousand cities in 120 countries that come together to celebrate through the arts. And we created Make Music Black Hills a few years ago and it's been wonderful because it's a free event. We invite everyone, the public, everyone to come down to Main Street Square and the venues that participate.

And we were at Mount Rushmore two years ago and it was just wonderful because we'd have mass appeals where people could come in and they would get harmonicas for free and the drumsticks and they would take part in free lessons right there, sitting on the grass at Main Street Square. We're having to really rethink how we will engage that audience and still have those interactions so that people can still take part.

One of the things we're doing, like you said, is we're going online with it and it's exciting to see all of the different opportunities that we will be able to provide. And we're going to partner with our restaurants here in Rapid City, in the Black Hills so that those harmonicas can be picked up at the restaurant or the drumsticks. And then they can take those home and then join us on June 21st and have those free lessons and play that music.

But some of really neat things that we're going to be doing, we're going to do a live from home challenge where you can record a musical performance and then tag three of your friends to challenge them to respond with their own performances. We're getting everyone engaged that way. Like I said, there'll be free online music lessons, so teachers around the world, not just in the Black Hills but all over will be offering free online lessons in a variety of instruments.

We're going to do Street Studios. We've done that in the past where you can record a sound and then upload it and then they will create a musical track right then and there on June 21st with those submitted materials. We'll have our bands undercover will individuals and bands can sign up to cover each other's music and then they will live stream their performances.

I love this one. We're going to have young composers contest, excuse me, where composers between the ages of 13 to 21 are invited to submit a short original composition for choir by June 1st and we're going to have a panel of renowned composers from all over the world that will give their feedback to those young composers and let them know what they think about it. And then one of those will be selected to be performed for the world on June 21st. It's pretty exciting.

And then what we'll be doing is we have partnered this year with Crazy Horse Memorial and we're working at doing a global livestream. All day on the 21st we'll be at Crazy Horse and we'll be able to have the artists come in and perform on the stage. And then we'll be able to broadcast that around the world for everyone to enjoy and still be able to be right there at Crazy Horse.

There's a lot of different opportunities that we're going to reach out to the community for. And also we received a grant from the South Dakota Arts Council for Make Music Black Hills. So we'll be able to provide us a stipend for a musician. If they want to reach out to me and Lee Mass Appeal for the harmonicas or the ukuleles or the John Mass Appeal, then we'll have funds available to give back to those artists as a thank you for their participation in in Make Music Black Hills.

Jackie Hendry: Unfortunately, my time is short, but I want to ask you one last quick question in our few remaining moments. We've seen how the pandemic has impacted all facets of life, but what has this time shown you or revealed to you about the work that you're doing with local artists?

GiGi Lage: It is; it's an unprecedented time in our history. But the exciting thing is it's incredible to note how our art sector is mobilizing around the issues we're facing and artists and organizations are collaborating and they're really trying to reach out to each other and help each other. And it's wonderful to see that the arts have always had a way of bringing people together. And this is true now even more with this global pandemic than it was before. But I love seeing how strong our arts community truly is.

Jackie Hendry: Wonderful. My guest has been at GiGi Lage, executive director of Allied Arts Fund in Rapid City. GiGi, thank you for taking the time to be with us and for the work you're doing for artists in our state.

GiGi Lage: Thank you so much. I truly appreciate it. You stay healthy and safe.