As self-employed small business owners, artists are feeling the effects of COVID-19. A recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found that half of small businesses reported a drop in sales due to COVID-19 and a quarter said they don’t think they could survive a month with a loss in income of more that 50 percent. On average, a typical visual artist in Canada makes $20,000 per year (lower than the median of all artists of $24,300), however, in 2019 the visual and applied arts contributed $10.2 billion to the Canadian economy.
Many artists have had shows, events and other work cancelled to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Supporting artists is vital during this uncertain time. While the government has pledged financial support to help small businesses and those people who are self-employed, customers also play a role in helping them to survive.
Here are seven ways you can continue to support artists during and after the pandemic.
- Gift certificates: Consider buying your gifts or a gift certificate for people now even if those events are months away. Not every artist may have a gift corticate, but don’t hesitate to reach out and ask if that’s something they would be interested in fulfilling. A gift certificate is a great way to help artists financially, ease their burden and spread joy to someone else who might need a little pick-me-up during this time.
- Commissions: Set up a commission with your favourite artist. A commission doesn’t have to happen right now. Many commission contracts include an upfront deposit with the balance due upon completion so this could be a good way to offer financial support with a flexible window of time.
- Buy online: Buy artwork directly from an artist or gallery online. Although you may not be able to go to studios or galleries in person or attend art openings, you can still view work online. Buying art online is increasingly the norm and connecting to artists and galleries directly has never been easier.
- Sharing is caring: Share resources, art, and fundraisers with your own circles. Not everyone can offer financial support in difficult times. What you can do instead is share information about artists and their work. Have you been quietly following an artist on Facebook or Instagram for a while? Share their work with others to boost their social following and, hopefully in turn, sales. The unfortunate reality is that it may not be possible to make purchases right now. However, don’t underestimate the impact of sharing information about the artists that you do come across and that you feel passionate about. The more people that see them and their work, the more likely a purchase may be made.
- Offer emotional support: All people during this difficult time could use a little extra emotional support. Send the artist in your life a text, pick up the telephone, or send a card or care package. Now more than ever, we need to increase our social bonds and let people know that we appreciate the work they do. Being an artist in a normal economy can be a financial struggle. Being an artist during a sudden economic decline can be downright stressful.
- Participate in an online art class: Selling art isn’t the only way that some artists support themselves. Many artists teach and with cancellations of in-person events, classes are moving online. Are there classes online where you can learn a new art skill or try your hand at a new technique? Try using this time to learn something new, support other artists and experience art from your home.
- Attend exhibits and openings online: Just because in-person gatherings are not happening right now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t view art and keep up on openings. In response to event closures, institutions and individuals are getting creative about how their work is shared with the world. Embrace the accessibility of online exhibits and openings and attend virtually. Muskoka Arts & Crafts is now posting albums of our exhibitions on our Facebook page. This practice will continue after the pandemic so our wider community can still be part of our exhibitions and engage with our artists.