Resources for the creative economy during the COVID19 crisis

By Mark G. Auerbach

If you’re a performer, an artist, a filmmaker, a gallery owner, an arts organization employee, or a member of what’s frequently referred to as “the creative economy,” Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd lyric comes to mind. “Times is hard, sir…times is hard.” In the last couple of weeks, all across the country arts organizations and creative industry businesses have shut down. Lost revenues from performances, scheduled galas and fundraisers have crippled organizations, many of which have laid off staff. The spin-off impact is horrifying, as restaurants, bars, shops, and parking, all who depend upon people activity from theatres visiting their sites, see empty streets.

My company has been hit hard. One client, a fledgling entertainment company, has cancelled the remainder of its 2019-20 season. One concert will be rescheduled in the fall, and the other concerts offerings won’t be on their stage. Another client, a national performing group, has cancelled all performances through the end of April, which is a big loss, considering it’s one of their times of year with heavy bookings. Some dates will be rescheduled. Others, especially their Washington, DC, ones, are cancelled—and they always did well at this time of year, because Washington, DC, is a big school vacation destination.

As an arts reporter, my theatre review schedule, once 3-4 times a week, is empty. And, I get paid by the review. The local arts groups are hurting. Hartford Stage, one of the largest in the area, just reduced its staff by 70%, as it cancelled one production mid-run and the following production completely. On the other hand, I’m able to keep my radio/TV schedule intact, but different. All interviews have to be phone-in or Skype.

If you’re part of the creative economy, especially if you’ve been laid off, file for unemployment benefits immediately. Then, secure your health benefits.

The UFCW Local 328 offers tips at How to File For Unemployment:

If you’re a union member, check your union’s website for details that may be applicable.

Actor’s Equity Association

American Federation of Musicians

American Guild of Musical Artists Relief Fund https://www.musicalartists.

Resources for individual artists include:

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. They have a list of agencies state by state.

Assets for artists relief fund information https://www.assetsforartists.

A blog on COVID-19 and Freelance Artists

Massachusetts Production Coalition (for those associated with the film and video industry) If not from Massachusetts, check with your state’s Film Production Board

Arts organizations large and small can reach out to the following for assistance:

Arts Extension Service at UMASS:

Chronicle of Philanthropy. Resources to Help Non-Profits

Every state has a small business development center. Below are two I am familiar with that are providing lots of good support; be sure to check out what your state’s center is offering:

-Connecticut Small Business Development Center (you or your business must be in Connecticut in order to access their consulting services, but they post a lot of good information on their website).

-Massachusetts Small Business Development Center (you or your business must be in Massachusetts to access their consulting services, but they post a lot of good information on their website)

Thanks to Burns Maxey (formerly at New England Public Radio) at the UMASS Arts Extension Service and Todd Trebour at the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (and formerly at Chester Theatre and UMASS Arts Extension Service) for their assistance in compiling this list of resources.


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on radio/TV on 89.5fm/WSKB, and WCPC15.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover