Why This Matters: ASC’s Mecklenburg Creatives Resiliency Fund supports artists and performers living in Charlotte-Mecklenburg that have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
By Krista Terrell, APR
Vice President, Marketing & Communications
“I lost 14 jobs in two days.”
That happened to local photographer Jon Strayhorn in March as stay-at-home guidelines resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic began taking hold.
Before COVID-19, creative individuals working in the gig economy and based in Charlotte-Mecklenburg were traveling locally, nationally and globally earning revenue through their craft: acting, music, photography, video, dancing, painting and more.
When the pandemic happened, the gigs stopped—and so did the revenue.
Data from an ongoing COVID-19 impact survey for artists and organizations conducted by ASC shows that, as of May 1, more than 90 percent of local artists have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The biggest impact is related to event cancellations (87 percent). Nearly 80 percent have experienced a loss of artistic income.
To help creatives during this difficult time, ASC launched the Mecklenburg Creatives Resiliency Fund. The fund, established with an initial contribution from ASC, provides $500 grants to eligible artists as long as funding is available.
More than 60 artists have received funding. More than $61,000 has been donated to the fund, including a $50,000 gift from the COVID-19 Response Fund managed by Foundation For The Carolinas and United Way of Central Carolinas.
“Many creatives rely on public performances and events as primary sources of income,” said ASC President Jeep Bryant. “This fund provides emergency funds to creative individuals in our community as they navigate potentially dire economic situations as a result of the pandemic. We are grateful to those donors that are joining us in providing financial support during this challenging time.”
Requests support reimbursement for medical expenses related to COVID-19 testing or care, including mental health counseling, unanticipated childcare or dependent adult care expenses due to social distancing and compensation for lost income due to a cancellation of a specific scheduled gig, exhibit, sales or similar opportunity due to COVID-19 precautionary measures.
We checked-in with a few recipients of ASC’s Mecklenburg Creatives Resiliency Fund to find out how COVID-19 has impacted them and what they are doing during the stay-at-home order.
Organizing for a Stronger Comeback
Strayhorn, a husband and father of two sons and a dog, had a lot of gigs booked to take photos for corporate and nonprofit clients.
Many of those gigs were postponed or canceled. It was a big hit.
“Getting that $500 from ASC was a breath of fresh air,” he said. “That funding is helping to keep food in the fridge and pay bills. It made me feel like my business has meaning and that I do give back to the community through my work.”
During the stay-at-home order, he is focused on building his skills and preparing for his business to be even stronger when the order is lifted. He applied to secure his Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) Certification with the state and is beginning the process to earn his Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification, “a necessity for minority-owned businesses,” says Strayhorn. He is also going through loads of photos and video and starting courses to earn a certification in information technology.
“This time has allowed me to slow down and really concentrate on the various aspects of my business,” he said.
Strayhorn said addressing his mental health before the start of the pandemic positioned him to better respond to the challenges the situation presents.
“Anxiety and depression has run my personal & business life for years,” he said. “It’s still a work in progress but I am calmer and I am able to handle situations without the anger or the ‘why me’ syndrome. If I hadn’t started on my mental health journey a year and half ago before this crisis, I would be in a very dark place.”
When this is over, Strayhorn said he will “be in a better place business-wise because I put my mind to it.”
Joining the Chorus Online
Allison Rhinehardt is a musical theatre artist by trade.
Her portfolio of work is diverse through performing in shows and serving children as a teaching artist – including Children’s Theater of Charlotte’s summer camp.
When COVID-19 happened, she was scheduled to perform in New York and Miami.
“Those shows were booked nine months out,” she said. “To have that sudden loss is tough.”
Rhinehardt learned about ASC’s resiliency fund through a friend. She was curious if she even qualified. After reviewing the criteria, she applied for and received funding.
“I was so happy and pleased,” she said. “I was also pleasantly surprised that I heard from ASC within a week of applying.”
Rhinehardt and her husband have four children: three high schoolers and one middle schooler.
“The $500 went straight to groceries,” she said.
During the stay-at-home order, she has been joining and participating in online experiences with her fellow musical theatre friends.
She participated in the Queen City Quarantine Concerts that bring viewers live-stream concerts to support the local theatre community. For her video audition for Theatre Charlotte’s “Quarantine: The Musical”—which received over 100 submissions—she rewrote the song “I Can’t Say No” from the Broadway musical “Oklahoma” to “I Can’t Stay Home.”
“We do it for our passion and love of performance,” she said.
Being Available, Continuing Education and Raising a Puppy
When COVID-19 hit, local consultant, strategist and photographer Erick Hodge lost one of his long-standing contracts.
He learned of the Resiliency Fund through mutual friends at Hue House, a collective that shares resources for people of color.
“Let me shoot my shot and try to win a grant,” he said. “A little goes a long way in times like this. I decided to apply, and thankfully I was accepted and I won it.”
When he received the funds, he first thought about what he needed. Groceries were at the top of his list. He also supported a local restaurant, Crispy Banh Mi located off Eastway Drive, by ordering takeout to help him and his wife celebrate their four-year anniversary in April.
During the stay-at-home order, Hodge is keeping himself busy.
“It’s been a little bit crazy for me, but in a good way,” he said.
He is wrapping up projects for clients, having conversations with current and potential clients and sharing his thoughts from a creative perspective around innovation and ideation with his friends working in the tech space.
Hodge is also using the time to continue working at his craft.
“I am taking a writing class at NYU, a 3D rendering class and reading books,” he said.
He is also making time for personal connections. He is cooking new recipes with his wife and training Prince, the mini schnauzer they received for their anniversary.