Supporting Artists is Essential Work: From the Desk of Maurine Knighton, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation - The New York Community Trust
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November 29, 2021   |   By The New York Community Trust
Supporting Artists is Essential Work: From the Desk of Maurine Knighton, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Maurine Knighton

Through our Philanthropic Advising program, The Trust helped the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation identify and distribute grants to artists struggling to support themselves during the pandemic. Below, Maurine Knighton, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation program director for the arts, writes about the crisis for artists and her foundation’s work with The Trust.

“There is no question that the pandemic created moments of pain and loss, and also resilience and innovation. This is especially true for artists, who help us make sense of the world and imagine a better way forward. In this turbulent time, we need art more than ever, and the creators of that art need us.

For many years, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has provided unrestricted funding to theater, contemporary dance, and jazz artists so they can continue to inspire and connect us. As the initial shock of the pandemic transformed into profound economic harm for performing artists, we knew it was a time for unprecedented action, and we had to do more.

Having worked closely with The New York Community Trust in a number of its funder collaboratives addressing the arts and foster care, our foundation knew The Trust had the expertise to help us quickly disseminate application information and distribute grants nationwide.

The Trust set up an online intake system for applications and facilitated national panels of experts to evaluate the needs of artists in contemporary dance, theater, and jazz. We moved ahead with assurance and speed, but we weren’t ready for the heart-rending stories we heard: brilliant artists were struggling to avoid eviction, maintain their health, care for their children and loved ones, and even get dental work so they could play their instruments.

At the end of the process, we distributed $3 million to 300 artists. This program offers a critical lifeline to these artists—providing them with unrestricted funding to help them pay their bills, get back on their feet, and continue to create. It helps them reestablish the conditions they need to thrive, so that they can add to the vibrancy of, and future possibilities for, our society through their imaginative work.

While we are proud to have provided assistance, we are keenly aware that more needs to be done to assure that the performing arts—and those who create them—continue to thrive. I hope everyone who has ever been moved by an artist will see these creative professionals as workers who merit our support. I know for me, they will always be essential workers.

As venues slowly reopen, yes, put your hands together and applaud loud and long, but let’s also dig deep into our generosity and ensure these artists can return for encores for years to come.”

Read about ways you can support the arts in New York right now.

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Media Contact Information

Need help or advice?

Marty Lipp
Communications Director
(212) 889-3963 
mbl@nyct-cfi.org

Amy Wolf
Assistant Director for Digital Media and Marketing
(646) 214-1004
aw@nyct-cfi.org

Get our media kit

Statue of Liberty in Red