Introduction

Artists and arts & cultural organizations play an important role in the long-term recovery efforts of their communities. However, while the robust response from artists and arts organizations is significant and well-documented, these same individuals and nonprofits are also vulnerable to the impact of disasters.

  • Visual and performing artists, playwrights and poets, musicians and singer/songwriters, and teaching artists of all disciplines have a long history of creating work both for and with disaster victims.
  • Arts and culture activities can help a community process the overwhelming feelings of loss, grief, anger and fear that are associated with major disasters.
  • Artists and arts & cultural organizations have a strong relationship with the communities they serve and, therefore, are in a unique position to work in cooperation with philanthropy, local government, social services and education in responding to disasters. The social capital that they provide is an essential ingredient in disaster relief and recovery efforts.
  • Artists and arts organizations are often under-capitalized and do more with less as a matter of regular business. As such, when impacted by a disaster, the shockwaves can be severe because their infrastructure and financial footing is compromised.
  • Loss of valuable artwork and national treasures, destruction of facilities, damage to supplies and materials, loss of musical instruments and theatrical design elements, and loss of earned revenue due to an interruption of operations can be devastating to artists and arts organizations.

 

The Wall of Wind Takes National Stage In Designing for Disaster, a Disaster Mitigation Exhibition at the National Building Museum.

Innovative Practices

Arts funders—including philanthropic organizations, state arts agencies, arts service organizations, corporate grantmakers, and individual donors—can make significant contributions to protecting, preserving, recovering, and mitigating loss in the field of arts and culture by creating and/or supporting:

  • the development and production of original works created in response to a disaster and in an effort to help community members make sense of the devastation and destruction;
  • artists-in-the-schools programs where teaching artists work with children to help them to creatively express their feelings about the disaster in a structured, supported and artistic environment;
  • immediate mini-grant programs that provide arts and cultural organizations with funding to support their own recovery and programming that serves their community;
  • workshops and training modules that educate artists and organizations on how to develop preparedness plans that incorporate both internal readiness approaches and external response strategies for serving their community;
  • Field-wide and region-wide assessments of damage and support needed in the wake of a disaster.

Watch FEMA’s restoration work on historic Liberty State Park

Key Takeaways

  1. In the aftermath of a disaster, artists and arts organizations support their communities by creating work for and with victims, which helps citizens to process feelings of loss, grief, anger and fear.
  2. Artists and arts oranizations often operate within razor-thin margins, which make them less likely to withstand and bounce-back from disasters.
  3. Loss and destruction from disaster is a double-loss for the community—not just in terms of tangible items, but the intangible, social capital that is weakened when artists and arts organizations are hurt and unable to recover or contribute to recovery efforts.