Free legal support, funds offered to Nashville artists needing help

Posted at 1:38 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 09:20:58-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — With more than 16,000 creative professionals in the nonprofit arts and culture sector in Nashville, COVID-19 can have detrimental effects on people's livelihood and local economy.

The Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville started the Greater Nashville Artist Relief Fund this week to assist artists from different backgrounds. Executive Director Jill McMillan Palm said they can apply until Friday to benefit from the $32,000 fundraised under a week with the help of donors and the nonprofit's budget. Click on the link to apply.

"We're expecting a huge influx of applications because over the last several weeks, we've had people reaching out to us asking for what kind of reliefs there were," she said.

The industry generates under half a billion dollars in total economic activity in Nashville, according to Americans for the Arts. Across the country, the group said 95 percent of organizations had to cancel events, 33 percent dipped into financial reserves and 42 percent reduced staff or laid off people.

McMillan Palm said her group, which is hub for education and resources, also offers free legal services through the Volunteer Lawyers & Professionals for the Arts (VLPA). The pro bono work to income-qualified artists has expanded to meet the needs of many during the pandemic and include culinary arts to help people such as chefs, baristas and bartenders.

"We provide free legal and business service to income qualified artists and arts organizations," she added. "We hadn't done anything with labor employment laws or landlord tenant and things like that but knowing the ripple effects of how this pandemic is affecting everybody's livelihoods, we're now able to get volunteers in those practice areas to help people navigate unemployment and look at event contracts that's now been canceled and don't know how to get out of those."

The quick relief grant is expected to help more than 60 artists.

Among the artists who benefited from VLPA before is Tony Sobota, a painter and caricaturist from North Nashville. He's a full time artist and is experiencing the impact of COVID-19. Sobota appreciates the fund and any resources available for people in the creative arts community.

"I had a quarter of my annual income just vanish, which is devastating," Sobota said. "There's no guaranteed paycheck for someone like me or others who depend on their artwork for a living. Any penny helps especially for those in really dire circumstances."

Lindsay Walker of Walker Jewelry also had to think creatively to help support herself in the meantime. She's been offering virtual classes and providing take home kits on how to make jewelry with the help of another fund. She's now looking to sell her space in Old Hickory where she normally would hold classes in person.

"Haven't been able to do that since early March, and that made up about 60 percent of my income. Artists rely on interaction for income and if we can't interact, we don't have that," Walker told NewsChannel 5.

To learn more about resources of artists including webinars to guide them through the federal relief packages and how you can volunteer to provide professional help, click on this link.