A letter from our Director announcing the conclusion of the Seattle Artists Relief Fund and the beginning of something new.
A little over a year ago LANGSTON joined forces with Ijeoma Oluo, Ebony Arunga, and Gabriel Teodros on Seattle Artists Relief Fund. As the staggering scale of the impact of COVID-related closures and cancelations on local artists began to reveal itself, these three local Black artists did what Black artists have always done–creatively made a way out of no way. We at LANGSTON recognized the brilliance and urgent need for their creation and stepped up to support these Black artists in any way we could.
What followed was a powerful creative collaboration that has touched the lives of thousands of local artists and the community that loves them, and set us off on a transformational journey none of us could have imagined last March.
Today we’re announcing that the first chapter of that journey has come to an end.
As of this week, we have finally been able to get funds out to everyone who applied for support in 2020. In all, we were able to raise and distribute over $1.1 million dollars to over 2100 Washington artists. This was a community effort: a state-wide mutual aid project that channeled the love for our culture workers held by thousands of community members, small businesses, public & private funders, and fellow artists. To everyone who donated to and/or benefitted from the Seattle Artists Relief Fund since last March: THANK YOU. Each and every one of you has given us so much hope for the creative future of this city, region, and state.
This experience has been transformational for us at LANGSTON. At the beginning of the pandemic, without the ability to bring people together in person, we were unsure how we could best live our mission of strengthening and advancing our community through Black arts and culture. Working with Ijeoma, Ebony, and Gabriel on SARF we were able to show up for our community–and so many others–in a new and profoundly impactful way. By year’s end, LANGSTON became the state’s single largest funder of individual artists in 2020.No other funder or large arts organization can say that, and we are very proud that it was our Black arts institution that was able to show up for the community in this major way. We hope our example will inspire larger, more resourced organizations to take this kind of leap to show up in service to our communities in the future.
We’ve learned a lot since entering this new work as funders and we’re dedicated to taking this new knowledge and experience and putting it to work in service to our community. To that end, we’re announcing today that we’re developing a new artist support program to pick up where SARF leaves off. Critically, this new program will be wholly focused on Seattle area Black artists. We’ll be spending the next few months working with local Black artists and Black arts organizations to co-create a new permanent program to provide some of the dedicated financial and professional supports that have always been lacking for Black artists in this region. Our first step will be a survey for Seattle-area Black artists that will go out next week. Please keep an eye out for this and share it with all of your favorite Black culture workers!
In the meantime, on behalf of the LANGSTON family, Ijeoma, Ebony, and Gabriel, I want to thank you all again for your support of the Seattle Artists Relief Fund, and your support of LANGSTON and the work we have always and will always be about: Cultivating Black Brilliance!