Artists At Work

(Photo Credit: Stella Olivier)

Inspired by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, Artists At Work (AAW) is a new program designed to give artists resources to continue to produce work during the immediate health and economic crisis brought by COVID, and to build new structures and partnerships that will help to sustain the creative sector in a post- pandemic America. Conceived by The Office performing arts + film in collaboration with the FreshGrass Foundation as a public/private partnership that combines government, corporate, and foundation support, AAW is a WPA for the arts reimagined into a modern context that is sensitive to the 21st century landscape (now drastically changed) of every artistic discipline’s place in the culture.

Artists At Work’s goals are to give a significant number of artists a living wage to continue to make work, to activate cultural institutions in support of that work, to put that work into the public sphere for free to audiences (and in doing so to boost local economies), and to connect artists and cultural organizations to local initiatives in areas like youth mental health, suicide prevention, food justice, prison reform, youth at risk, campaigns for COVID awareness in communities of color, and other civic engagements with the aim of fostering healthy communities. AAW provides a dynamic and flexible structure for funding to flow into the cultural sector with substantive, immediate, and tangible impacts for individual artists, institutions, and the general public—outcomes that will help art and artists to survive, and also embed the arts more deeply into communities to the benefit of society as a whole.

Artists are the messengers who will lead us into the future—their work will help us to understand our new world; their creativity and inspirations will both express and allow us to maintain our humanity through trials that feel inconceivable. At the time of AAW’s launch, our musicians, fine artists, filmmakers, theater makers, writers, and dancers are suffering grave financial circumstances; their incomes are being decimated, and many can’t pay rent let alone make art. AAW is at once a rescue package and a plan for the future—an ambitious effort to both safeguard and amplify the vital role art and artists play as we move together into a new world.