Philanthropists Have Launched a $75 Million Fund for Nonprofit Arts Organizations Put Under Strain by the Coronavirus

Meanwhile, galleries and other for-profit businesses are calling on the city for aid. 

A view of a virtually empty Madison Avenue during rush hour. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.
A view of a virtually empty Madison Avenue during rush hour. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.

A network of philanthropists has come together to form a new $75 million fund for New York City arts and social-service organizations impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

Overseen by the New York Community Trust, the NYC Covid-19 Response & Impact Fund will provide grants and interest-free loans to small and mid-size nonprofits that have faced losses in the pandemic. Organizations can use the money for a variety of needs, including to purchase health supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer; technologies to allow employees work remotely; or to offset the loss of revenue from canceled programs and events. 

Eighteen philanthropic organizations have donated to the fund, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Ford Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. 

An advisory committee formed by leaders in the fields of public health, community development, and the arts will direct the money, giving priority to direct service providers and those who play an active role in their communities.

The Community Trust will continue to solicit donations. A similar fund established by the Community Trust after 9/11 went on to raised and grant more than $500 million.

“This is an unprecedented situation, but the philanthropic community has had experience joining together to respond,” Lorie Slutsky, president of the New York Community Trust, said in a statement. “The NYC Covid-19 Response & Impact Fund will provide critical funding to shore up the safety net provided by nonprofits across the city as they struggle to keep up with the increased demand for their services. We hope everyone who is passionate about our city and its people will join us.”

You can apply for funds or donate here.

A sign is seen in the window of Helly Nahmad Gallery on Madison Avenue on March 13, 2020 in New York City. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.

A sign is seen in the window of Helly Nahmad Gallery on Madison Avenue on March 13, 2020 in New York City. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.

While the announcement of the fund comes as welcome news to nonprofits, commercial galleries and other for-profit businesses in the art world are still desperate for support. 

Yesterday, the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) launched a petition calling on New York state’s leaders, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, to create a new grant relief initiative that would help these enterprises. As of this article’s writing, 1,890 people have signed the letter. 

“Without the financial support of the local, state, and federal government, these businesses will not be able to pay their employees, support the artists that they represent, pay their bills, and pay their rents and/or mortgages on the spaces in which they operate,” the petition reads. “If no action is taken, these businesses will not survive and many artists and art workers will be left without a system of support.”

The petition points out that the eligibility requirements of the two New York City relief programs put into place by de Blasio on March 8 are strict to the point of precluding the vast majority of galleries. For example, both programs require businesses to demonstrate at least a 25 percent decrease in revenue since the outbreak started—a stipulation that, for galleries relying on staggered payments, is hard to meet. 

In addition to a new relief initiative that incorporates these considerations, NADA is also asking the city to provide emergency Medicare for all, rent and utility forgiveness for commercial tenants, and a freeze on mortgage payments for business owners working out of their own properties.


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