How to Support Local Artists During the Health Crisis

“It’s important for creatives to remember that just living through these times, surviving this, can be a form of creativity.”


Milwaukee Magazine’s Publisher and Editor Carole Nicksin went live with three local leaders in the arts community. Guests included Imagine MKE’s CEO David Lee, creative entrepreneur and executive director of AWE Inc. LaShawndra Vernon and director for the program at Gener8tor Maureen Ragalie. 

Lee discussed the MKE Artist Relief Fund. This fund supports local artists in Milwaukee County who have been financially impacted by cancellations due to COVID-19. This little boost of financial aid to an individual can be a difference in rent and meals for the time being, until the federal aid begins to kick-in. The original goal was to raise $50,000 in a month, but as of April 10, they’ve raised $130,000 that will be sent out to approved grant applicants.

“The people to thank are the donors,” Lee said. “Everyday Milwaukeeans are the folks that deserve the thanks for donating. We’re merely a holding bank and someone to write the checks out.”

While 283 applicants will receive aid, there is still a waitlist of artists awaiting financial assistance. There is a gap of $65,000 that needs to be reached in order for those waitlisted artists to receive aid. Any bit helps with the goal to be reached by May 1. For those who donate over $50, they’ll receive two free tickets to this fall’s Summerfest. 

Vernon discussed how common it is for artists to need help even when there isn’t a pandemic. People turn to art when they’re uncertain, when they’re in difficult times and when they’re experiencing good times. Art is something that heals, which is why it’s so significant at AWE Inc.

With a typical hiring of 45 to 50 artists in a year with a small administration, the artists have begun to experience a difficult time when attempting to adjust to the reality of the pandemic’s affects. Before, they were receiving much more individual care for their artistry.

“We’ve began to do virtual gatherings via Google Hangout,” said Vernon. These virtual hang outs have enabled artists to gather and share since the one-on-one time is diminishing. It keeps every artist that’s participating in the experience connected and ready. Some of these artists are now creating content for AWE Inc.’s YouTube channel as well.

Ragalie discussed how is supporting local artists with resources on what and how to apply for certain grants and financial aid, mental health resources and wellness webinars on how to continue their art practice online. For example, Ragalie was explaining how if artists started viewing themselves as their own small business it would open up opportunities to them for fund opportunities to begin to open up.

“It’s important for creatives to remember that just living through these times, surviving this, can be a form of creativity,” said Ragalie. 



Morgan is a 2020 MilMag intern. She's Minnesota born, but has a Milwaukee heart. An Alverno College undergraduate and will be graduating in December 2020 . Follow her on social media @morgan_lemner