A Message from ASC President Jeep Bryant regarding COVID-19

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Today, I’ve been thinking back to one of the first conference calls we held with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg cultural community as the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding.

We all could feel the anxiety when one of the community leaders on the call said, “It’s all gravity and no floor.”

She was speaking during the first days of the pandemic as our performing arts venues and museums rushed to close their doors. In a matter of hours – days before the restaurants and bars were closed – we watched as the lights went out in the creative spaces all around us.

No ticket sales. No rehearsals. No fundraising events. Cancelled gigs for artists, musicians and dancers. All gravity, and no floor.

But instead of hunkering down, our creative community found vital ways to put their equipment and skills to work.

Staff members at Discovery Place took 3D printers home and began producing face shields for health care workers. The costume shops at Charlotte Ballet, Children’s Theatre and Theatre Charlotte began sewing cloth masks for local hospitals. The Mint Museum donated nitrile gloves. In ASC’s Culture Block Program, Artist Arsena Schroeder quickly converted her workshop into a virtual experience. And her company, Dear Soul Music, is now offering micro grants to artists.

ASC revamped a scheduled panel review for our creative fellowship awards, convening a group of past recipients and cultural leaders via Zoom to discuss the applications. Many members of the selection panel were moved by the words of several artists — written before the crisis began — that explained how they planned to use their grants to give back to the communities where they live and work. When the winners were notified, “The most common emotion we heard was an overwhelming sense of relief,” said Liz Fitzgerald, an ASC grants director.

ASC has established the Mecklenburg Creatives Resiliency Fund to assist individual artists, musicians, performers and others in the creative community. We encourage artists to apply as limited funds are available. You can support that effort and contribute to ASC as we work to build the resources needed for the next round of grants to cultural organizations in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Together, we are rising to the challenges of this moment. For example, Arts+ is offering virtual music lessons to students and will soon have 95 percent of its music curriculum delivered digitally. The Charlotte Children’s Choir is now meeting online. Many of the organizations we support are creating digital experiences to serve our community during this difficult time. You can access links to those experiences here.

We are taking steps at ASC to ensure that our grant commitments to individuals and organizations continue over the coming months despite the volatility in our own revenue sources. We suspended some of our education initiatives when the schools closed and made the difficult decision to furlough dedicated and talented staff members who support those efforts. ASC’s leadership team and I are taking significant salary reductions to minimize the need for further cuts impacting junior and mid-level staff.

The arts and cultural community was the first to shut down and we are concerned that we will be the last to reopen. Critical public health considerations are likely to remain an ongoing concern. Because of that, ASC’s role as a convener and advocate for the cultural community has never been more vital than now. We will work every day to ensure that the needs of the individuals and organizations we support are lifted up to public and private funders.

It’s clear with each passing day that our arts, science and cultural community is essential. In times of crisis, it’s not a luxury. It’s a lifeline.

Thank you for your continued support. Please stay home and continue to be safe.

Jeep Bryant
ASC President

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