They would normally be earning their money at pubs, clubs, halls and concert venues, but for Newfoundland and Labrador artists who have had to cancel performances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a tough time.
“So much money has been spent on events that are getting cancelled and there’s just no way to recoup those costs …,” said Business and Arts NL executive director Amy Henderson, who noted many worry artists’ organizations will go bankrupt. “It’s serious.”
While many artists, including musicians and comedians, are trying to stay visible by performing on social media and other online sites, there’s no financial benefit from the free content.
But many singers and players across the province will soon get a financial boost thanks to a plan spearheaded by a group of local tech companies, which have raised more than $200,000 to launch the Closed Door, Open Heart initiative.
Facilitated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology and Innovation, the campaign came about when the tech companies decided to divert their staff travel and entertainment budgets to funds that would help provide support to community organizations and charities.
One of the tech companies, Genoa Design International — a production design firm based in Mount Pearl with customers across the continent — decided to divert its funds to such community organizations as Business and Arts NL and the Home Again Furniture Bank.
“It was the best day of my job, especially in the last month,” Henderson said, when describing the excitement of getting news from Genoa. “It’s the kind of call I dream of getting all the time.”
She said the money will go to pay artists a professional fee to perform on a weekly radio show.
Business and Arts NL is a non-profit, membership-based organization that represents arts organizations, businesses and individual artists to deepen collaboration between the creative and private sectors.
Henderson said the arts play a key role in people’s lives, especially in times like these.
“This is what art contributes to society — connection, distraction and inspiration and now more than ever, this is what we need, but there are no venues for it. It’s only online,” she said.
“Arts members wanted an opportunity to make sure people are still hearing them, still benefitting from the arts ….
“Genoa stepped in … and we’re going to get to hear live music being created. We’re going to get to hear the temperature of our times through the voices of our writers and comedians and musicians …
“We’re just delighted that all the stars aligned for this one. We’re so grateful.”
Maureen Lymburner, director of development with Home Again Furniture Bank, said Genoa’s contribute from the Closed Door, Open Heart campaign will go a long way to help disadvantaged people get the items they need to furnish their homes.
“It will be a huge help to us …,” she said, noting Genoa supports their organization throughout the year, even providing volunteers to help with furniture pickup and delivery.
Home Again — which has furnished more than 1,300 homes since 2015 — has had to temporarily cease operations during the pandemic that has impacted many clients waiting for items.
“It’s heartbreaking … especially during this time when people are being asked to stay home and not to couch surf. Furniture is needed now more than ever,” Lymburner said.
However, she said they are doing much behind-the-scenes work preparing for a big comeback as soon as restrictions are lifted. She said the funding from the campaign will likely go towards purchasing mattresses, which are in high demand and need to meet their quality standards.
“We recognize how important it is to get a good night’s sleep,” she said. “It’s important for physical and mental health.”
Genoa CEO Gina Pecore said her company immediately jumped at the chance of doing something worthwhile for community groups.
“This idea that we can share the savings that we’re going to see back with the community just made a whole lot of sense …,” she said, noting Genoa regularly assigns a portion of its budget to community donations.
“The travel budget, in particular, was a really creative, ingenious way to look at how we can share back.”
She said the pandemic is allowing companies to reevaluate the necessity of so much travel in the future. Having to connect virtually is making many realize the positive impact it’s having not only on climate change, but productivity as well, she said.
“Travel takes a lot of time, and impacts health and well-being. Sticking closer to home is something people are realizing is a nice and healthy thing to do,” she said.
“So, going forward, this is a short-term initiative to divert some of the travel savings to the benefit of the community, but in the bigger view, we all may be reassessing our travel budget and looking for different ways to spending and how we connect.”
One of the charities identified for support from another company, Bluedrop Performance Learning, is the Hungry Heart Café, a social enterprise initiative of Stella’s Circle. The corporate donation will purchase nutritious meals to help vulnerable individuals and families in the community.
“This support enables the café to maintain supported employment and address food security concerns of Stella’s Circle participants who are increasingly at risk as the pandemic continues,” Rob McLennan, director of employment services at Stella’s Circle, said.
The Closed Door, Open Heart campaign encourages companies to donate an amount (in cash and/or kind) equivalent to between one and three months’ worth of expenses, that will not be spent due to physical distancing. It asks companies to partner with interested employees and act to support local and/or global causes.
Both monetary donations and in-kind contributions are appropriate for the pledge. Participating businesses and employees are encouraged to decorate their doors and post photos on social media with the hashtag #closeddooropenheart.
Visit closeddooropenheart.com to learn more.