Methow Arts assists with advice, training
As the world self-isolates, artists are cut off from their audiences. The ban on public gatherings means that artists who rely on performances, workshops, classes, galleries, and exhibits are without outlets to share their work — and support their livelihood.
Local artists, like people involved in many types of work, are looking for ways to adapt to the current reality of life during a pandemic. They are getting help from Methow Arts, the Twisp-based organization that promotes access to the arts throughout Okanogan County.
In normal times, Methow Arts focuses on bringing art and arts events to schools and communities throughout the county. Now, Methow Arts is working to help local artists, arts organizations and creative entrepreneurs survive the crisis, while also working to keep Methow Arts itself viable, said Amanda Jackson Mott, executive director.
“We’re shifting our focus to meaningful ways to serve artists,” Jackson Mott said. “And we’re being creative in finding ways to keep afloat.”
The Methow Arts office on Glover Street in Twisp is closed, but its staff is working from home from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday to help artists through this difficult time. Three staff members are providing artists free one-on-one consultations, Jackson Mott said.
“We’re receiving emails and phone calls from across north-central Washington,” she said. “We’re coming up with case files … trying to understand what kind of loss they’re experiencing. The tricky part is some have business licenses and file taxes, others are not as structured.”
Methow Arts is helping artists find assistance to meet their needs, whether they are independent contractors, teachers, or performing artists who have had their gigs canceled. “We are offering assistance in emergency funding, help with grant writing, and training,” Jackson Mott said. Methow Arts’ webpage includes a list of resources available to help artists during the public health crisis.
Selling art online
With galleries, farmer’s markets, and gift shops closed, local artists have lost opportunities to sell their work. So Methow Arts has launched an initiative to teach artists how to use social media to market their creations.
“We’re trying to build the skill set of artists, to give them the ability to sell artwork online,” Jackson Mott said. Methow Arts has conducted three webinars this month for artists, taught via Zoom by local silversmith Nicole Ringgold, called “Instagram: Grow your Brand from Brick and Mortar to Virtual.”
“We have had over 300 people contact us from around the world wanting to register. Priority is given to north-central Washington artists, makers, and creative sectors,” Jackson Mott said.
One of the Instagram class participants is self-described “pandemic potter,” Marcia Ives. With local galleries and shops that carry her pottery closed, “I concluded I might want to think about what to do with all my creations,” Ives said.
“Methow Arts and TwispWorks/Methow Made have been great about reaching out with support in the last month, seeing if they could do anything to support me as a local artist,” Ives said. When she saw the announcement about Methow Arts’ Instagram marketing course for beginners, Ives signed up.
“The class was a great jumping in point,” Ives said. “I have put a ton of time into understanding this social media platform.” She received one-on-one help from Ringgold following the class to learn how to create invoices, track income, and expenses, and estimate shipping costs.
The investment of time and effort has paid off. “I made my first pottery sale on Instagram on Friday,” Ives said this week. “Having someone reach out and offer help right now was what has made it all happen. The timing was perfect.”
Ives said she plans to donate 25 percent of her income from sales, through at least the end of May, to three local nonprofits that are supporting people affected by the pandemic.
In addition to helping artists build their online marketing skills, Methow Arts uses its website to connect people with artists who sell their art online, www.methowarts.org/artists-online. Shoppers can purchase gift cards or commission art for upcoming holidays, including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Jackson Mott said. “Let’s support our local community, versus shopping on Amazon, etc.”
A significant part of Methow Arts’ mission is bringing art into schools through performances by professional touring groups, and artists-in-residence who teach art at schools throughout Okanogan County. With schools shut down, Methow Arts is finding ways to continue reaching students.
Many of the teaching artists who work with Methow Arts are now developing lessons for students that are included in student packets and delivered by the bus weekly. The initiative started in the Methow Valley but as word about it got out, demand for the lessons has grown.
“What’s exciting is that we are now reaching students across Okanogan County and have expanded these resources to include Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Manson, and Chelan, with more being added daily,” Jackson Mott said.
The artists are also developing easy art lessons for parents to do with their children at home, and are posted on the Methow Arts website, http://www.methowarts.org/category/art-lessons-for-parents-teachers-kids. Lessons are geared toward grade levels and include descriptions, images, and lists of materials.
To pay the teaching artists for their work, Methow Arts reached out to the Robert B. McMillen Foundation in Cle Elum, and received a $10,000 emergency grant, Jackson Mott said.
Methow Arts and other local nonprofit art and cultural organizations are “being hit hard due to canceled events, gallery closures and suspended community services,” Jackson Mott said. The Merc Playhouse, Confluence Gallery, the Methow Valley Interpretive Center, Methow Valley Theater, and Cascadia Music are among a growing number of community groups that have canceled or postponed events.
Methow Arts has felt financial impacts with event deposits and online ticket sales. “For example, our check in the amount of $7,342 for February’s Hiplet performance bounced from BrownPaperTickets.com — our online ticket platform,” The ticket agency “has been hit hard due to ticket refunds … it just shows how many levels this is impacting,” Jackson Mott said. And Methow Arts won’t be reimbursed for almost $4,000 in deposits and fees for performers that were booked for the canceled April 18th Earth Day celebration.
Jackson Mott said she made a decision to keep her staff on the payroll while exploring options for financial support, including applying for assistance under the new federal Paycheck Protection Program. Some art foundations that provided funding for specific programs or performances have authorized the funding to be used for general operating expenses, she said.
Support for the arts is critical during this difficult time, and especially for a community that is home to so many working artists and arts organizations, Jackson Mott said. In fact, Twisp was just designated a “creative district” by Washington State Arts, one of only five such districts in the state. The creative district designation, announced on March 24, was sought by the town of Twisp and Methow Arts, and is intended to boost economic development by heightening a community’s brand as a center for arts and culture.
“It’s an interesting time to get that,” Jackson Mott said. “In this time of crisis and isolation, the role of art becomes more central to our lives, whether we realize it or not,” she said. “Joy, even in dire circumstances, comes through the arts and collective expression. Our Methow Valley community is built upon creative thinking and at this time I firmly believe that it will be the creative solutions from our community that get us through this crisis.”
Methow Arts can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at 997-4004.