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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

City of Davis awards relief grants to 50 local artists

How the American Rescue Plan Act is supporting local artists recovering from the pandemic


By ALEX UPTON  city@theaggie.org 


On Feb. 27, the city of Davis announced its list of 50 local artists who are recipients of $1,000 relief grants through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Out of the $19 million fund — which was designed to stabilize communities after COVID-19 $600,000 went to the arts sector, $50,000 to individuals and $550,000 to organizations.

According to Rachel Hartsough, the arts and culture manager for the city of Davis, the arts sector was hit particularly hard during the pandemic as many artists don’t work traditional 9-5 jobs. Since they typically aren’t considered employees of a particular company, they were left out of many relief programs, like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), so many artists are still recovering from the time they were unable to work. 

“Some artists are using them to pay rent, to buy art supplies, some artists are using them to frame work so they can get work in shows, to rent studio space, to pay dentist bills,” Hartsough said. “Anything that they need funds for frankly because a lot of them were just really out of work completely for a chunk of time with no fallback plan or resources that were eligible to a lot of other folks.”

There are no requirements for the use of funds and the only requirements for nomination were that the artists worked in the sector before the COVID-19 pandemic and that they either lived in Davis or put together an explanation for why they deserved the funds. For example, Hartsough said that at least one recipient lost their home in Davis during the pandemic and had to move, so they no longer live in the city. She discussed what she hopes will come from the relief program. 

“For the individual artists the big hope is that it keeps them here in Davis,” Hartsough said. “The cost of living is really high here and it’s hard for people to support themselves, and so our hope is that — even though it’s a very small amount — that will be enough for some artists to make the choice to be able to stay here and not have to leave. The more we can bolster and strengthen our creative sector, the more that they then are contributing to the community through public art, through programming, through small businesses, things like that.”

Hartsough said that the arts are often an overlooked sector and seen as non-essential. She discussed why she thinks the city chose to allocate these funds to the art sector, considering recent recognitions of the importance of the art community in relation to economic growth. 

“I think the city saw this as an important opportunity to keep that part of the community financially solvent during this challenging time to them and it’s definitely given a good morale boost to that sector,” Hartsough said. “I think that they are now re-energized and working hard to do the work that we’ve entrusted them to do and that we appreciate that they do.”

Hartsough has been a member of the arts community for over 30 years as a patron, teacher, artist and administrator.

“It’s something that is very near and dear to me, I think it’s something that keeps everybody going and feeds our souls and feeds our psyches and our hearts and especially at this time when there’s so much chaos going on like in politics and in healthcare and the environment,” Hartsough said. “The arts give us a way both to communicate any strong feelings that those things create in humans and also a way to find and appreciate the types of experiences and beauty that can help us sort of stay centered. It’s something that we as a community celebrate but don’t always find ways to tangibly support, so this was a huge win for the city to really directly support the arts community in this way.”

Mayor Will Arnold also shared a statement about allocating the funds to local artists. 

“From community wellness to mental health, local artists play a critical role in enhancing quality of life and economic vitality,” Arnold said. “We appreciate and recognize the value of retaining artists who call Davis home.”

For a full list of grant recipients visit the city’s website.


Written by: Alex Upton — city@theaggie.org