Observing the complex connections among large groups of humans is core to the work of Oakland-based painter and print-maker Amy Oates. "Crowds, and how they shape 21st century urban spaces, have fascinated me for years," Oates recently posted on Instagram. "It never occurred to me that the 21st century urban experience could include and even necessitate the intentional absence of crowds."
In alignment with CDC, state, and government recommendations, artists across the Bay Area began closing their studios and cancelling their exhibits last week; Monday's mandate to shelter in place effectively closed all "non-essential" businesses that had remained open.
We believe that art is essential to living an inspired life, and that our local artists are essential to keeping this place special. Here's how many have been impacted, and what we can all do to help during this time of crisis.
**UPDATE, March 25th: San Francisco Mayor London Breed has announced the SF Arts Relief Fund, which is offering $1.5 million in grants to individual artists and small to medium arts and cultural organizations, and $1 million in low-interest loans to arts and cultural orgs. For more details and to apply, go to sfartscommission.org.
A past participant in San Francisco's stARTup Art Fair and member of the Bay Area arts community, Oates shares the sentiment of many artists when she encourages residents to purchase art online during this time of self-isolation.
Joen Madonna, executive director of ArtSpan, agrees, sharing that the organization preemptively cancelled its annual benefit art auction—which typically garners around $250,000, half of ArtSpan's operational needs for the year. Madonna and her staff, who are committed to cultivating and promoting San Francisco's art community, have put out an ask to local art lovers for donations (which are tax deductible and can be made on the org's website); they are also dreaming up creative alternatives for ways we can all interact with artists from afar.
"We're working on what we can do to help people feel more engaged and less afraid," she said. Possibilities include virtual tours of artists' studios, and an online scavenger hunt that would potentially stretch across the city and engage with other SF institutions. "We're locked in, but we're ok. The question is how can we play and entertain each other?"
The artists of Hunter's Point Shipyard have likewise postponed plans for their spring open studios, which would have represented more than 100 local artists in Bayview, leaving many without the community connections they'd normally form at such events.
Root Division, a nonprofit which nurtures artists and provides community arts education, cancelled plans for a celebration this past Saturday and put unprecedented restrictions on their annual MFA Never exhibit. Their Second Saturday events will be cancelled until social distancing restrictions are lifted, as will all adult classes until at least the end of April, which could generate a loss of as much as $20,000. Look for updates on potential online classes (offered at a sliding scale) on the class page of Root Division's website.
Root Division's next show, "Spell of the Senses," was slated to open April 1st in coordination with Taste, a spring fundraiser, for which they already had 19 food vendors and upwards of 70 partner businesses confirmed. "Of all the shows that we could have tried to do virtually, this would be particularly challenging," said Michelle Mansour, the organization's executive director. "We'll probably have to cancel both events."
Creativity Explored, the nonprofit group that empowers artists with developmental disabilities, has also canceled its scheduled events and exhibitions. You can continue to support the artists by purchasing their work online; 50 percent of all purchases go directly to the creators.
Of course, it isn't just the larger arts organizations that are struggling—independently run shops and studios will also suffer, like the Outer Sunset's popular 3 Fish Studios, which closed its doors last weekend.
"As a small business that thrives on in-studio purchases, this has been a tough time. But in times like these, doing our part to protect public health is what we are called to do," said cofounders Annie Galvin and Eric Rewitzer on Instagram. 3 Fish Studios is offering 10 percent off online purchases of their iconic prints, tote bags, magnets, and more, as well as free shipping within the U.S. Gift cards are also available.
If you're bored at home and looking for a hobby, Oakland-based woodworker Aleksandra Zee plans to roll out virtual workshops soon (watch for updates on her Instagram) and remains working in her private studio to fulfill made-to-order pieces at sale prices and custom commissions at 10 percent off. Zee's friend and mentor, the sculptor Katie Gong, is offering 15 percent off her signature wood knot and squiggle sculptures.
You may also shop prints by local contemporary artists on the website of Mission gallery Art Attack SF; make a tax-deductible donation to San Francisco Women Artists; and purchase works by various SF artists on Artsy.net.
If you are an artist looking for resources in response to Covid-19—especially grants for emergency funding, legal information, and best practices for working online, go to covid19freelanceartistresource.wordpress.com. Oakland-based Rogue Habits is also keeping up a survival guide with resources for creative freelancers.