What Happened to the Artist Grants During Covid?
During the height of the Covid-19 global pandemic, many private organizations in the USA started to hand out grants to people for a variety of reasons. Government stimulus checks did very little to truly help people, and so a lot of private organizations took it upon themselves to offer relief. One such organization was the National Endowment for the Arts. Along with Artistic Fuel, Artistic Relief, and other private organizations, struggling artists could supposedly receive thousands of dollars in grants.
Artists, such as painters, sculptors, songwriters, playwrights, etc, cannot file for traditional unemployment like people with payroll jobs can. So, when they lost their opportunities during the pandemic, they leaned very heavily on these private organizations for grants. The issue, however, is the multiple thousands of complaints of people who were denied this grant money, and the lack of information on people who were rewarded these grants.
In other words, we cannot track down people who actually received these grants, while at the same time we can find social media pages, videos and message boards full of individuals who were denied for these grants, or they simply applied and never heard back from the organization.
One such applicant we spoke with was a songwriter from Virginia, Brian Hancock. During the course of the pandemic, Brian had three separate songs he wrote in the works in production studios. As a songwriter, he would have been entitled to 12% of every dollar those songs made. However, due to the pandemic, production was shut down, and Hancock was left without a job or without any income. So, with all the many different grants available, he started to apply.
The biggest one was the $10,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. Seeing as organizations like this (arts and humanities) have gotten over $100 million from each of the government spending packages involved with Covid, they have plenty of money to help artists. The issue, however, is that Brian seemed not to qualify.
“They asked about hardship, which I demonstrated,” claimed Hancock. “But when you get into the latter stages of the application process, they start asking about your [ethnic] background. And they seem to want certain types of people to apply and others not to.”
One organization could just be a fluke, but Hancock found the same pattern with six separate organizations claiming to hand out relief money for struggling artists. What they really did was hand out money to certain ethnic backgrounds, particularly to African-Americans and undocumented residents of America.
To the best of our ability, we can only find information on these grants being awarded to people based on a minority status, not on a career status.
Let's not get this confused. In no way is anyone saying that grants should not be given out based on these criteria. Private businesses can offer grant money in any way they see fit. But as Hancock and tens of thousands of others have found out, these grant programs seem to be little more then wealth redistribution based on social justice political factors. This misrepresentation is a federal crime, and it harmed countless thousands of artists, if true.
Why Grants Are Hard to Account For
Grants specifically for African-Americans and undocumented immigrants pop up all the time. They're fine. No one stands against them. In New York as of mid April, 2021, the government is outwardly operating a program that gives undocumented immigrants a one-time payment of over $15,000. And nobody's protesting against or, nor is anyone claiming that it's illegal. But one can easily see the difference. It's not as if the government claimed the program was for struggling business owners and then misappropriated the funds.
The issue here is that organizations giving money away based on ulterior motives are stealing money to give away. They get their money through government stimulus and charitable donations. So when they say they're giving money out to artists, but they really mean to African-American artists, this is something that needs to show up in the print.
It's very hard to track to whom this money has been given, but it's a lot easier to track the people who were denied money. There are multiple organizations out there that have been claiming since mid 2020 to provide grant relief for struggling artists, but we cannot find any struggling artists who were helped. We find people like Hancock, who were asked about their ethnicity and not their actual work in the arts.
This sort of deceptive grant practice is a lot more harmful for a society, no matter how well intentioned the organizations believe themselves to be.
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