COVID-19 Preparedness for Residencies Resources + Approaches

ACA Staff
March 23, 2020

The Alliance of Artists Communities is monitoring the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in our communities and is in daily contact with our local, state, and federal partners. Our top priority is the health and safety of all who come in contact with the AAC, which includes members, staff, volunteers, and participants at our convenings.

We recognize that residencies operate in communal contexts, and we are considering how COVID-19 affects artist mobility and general program operations. We will continue to connect you with translatable resources to support you in your decision-making processes during this public health crisis. We encourage all of our member programs to connect directly with their near-peer residency organizations (i.e. other residencies in your region or similar program types) to share information and discuss flexible terms for artists and staff.

Relevant resources and recommendations for the residency field

Myriad tactics have been shared via online platforms. We believe the following websites and recommendations are most relevant to artist residencies:

AAC Resources

CDC + WHO Coronavirus Planning Guides

After careful research of translatable models, we feel that residencies should review:

For up to date information regarding travel advisories and global cases:

Human Resources 

Staff Support + Remote Work

 Business Continuity Planning

Program Development

CARES Act / Stimulus Package

 Advocacy / Making the Case

Peer Support


Community Care + Wellbeing

Virtual Experiences

Emergency Preparedness

Communication Planning

Communicate clearly with consistent messaging to your staff, artists, volunteers, community, and donors. Providing timely updates on your plans, strategies, and precautions is critical. The websites below give best practices and crisis communication tips.

Countering Xenophobia 

  • While putting safety measures in place, we encourage deep consideration of the stigma associated with COVID-19. As advocates for all artists, we must also ensure that the steps we take are equitable in the treatment of Asian and Asian-American constituents.
  • Additionally, be aware of how a visiting artist may be received in your community and how this might impact the artist's experience.

Artist Relief Funding + Grants

  • New! Dance/NYC- COVID-19 Dance Relief Fund invites freelance dance workers and organizations in the NYC area to apply for funding, with special priority given to communities most affected by the virus—including African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American, disabled, immigrant, and women-identifying artists, and, they note, “those at high risk, including elderly and immunosuppressed artists.”

  • New! The Equal Sound Corona Relief Fund will assist musicians whose gigs and events were canceled due to COVID-19. There will be delay in the distribution of funds, given the overwhelming requests for assistance.

  • New! The Foundation for Contemporary Arts COVID-19 Relief Fund  will be distributing $1,000 grants to experimental artists who can demonstrate that their exhibitions or performances were cancelled due to the pandemic. Applicants must be individual artists (even if they are representing a larger collective); curators, producers, presenters and organizations are not eligible.
  • New! Artist Relief Tree - This fund is intended to help those pursuing careers as artists (of any type). If you fit this description and your income has been directly impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis – and you are in need of short-term, immediate financial assistance – Artist Relief Tree would like to help. They will disburse funds in the amount of $250 per person, on a first-come-first-served basis. They will also be accepting donations indefinitely.
  • New! Queer Writers of Color Relief Fund is to help at least 100 queer writers of color who have been financially impacted by the current COVID-19. Priority will be given to queer trans women of color and queer disabled writers of color, but I hope this relief fund will help many queer writers of color it can.
  • New! MusiCares - Music industry professionals may apply for basic living assistance (rent or mortgage). Initial grant requests can be made up to $1000 to compensate for canceled work that was scheduled and lost.
  • New! Freelancers Union Freelancers Relief Fund will offer financial assistance of up to $1,000 per freelance household to cover lost income and essential expenses not covered by government relief programs, including food/food supplies; utility payments; cash assistance to cover income loss.

  • New! NYC Low-Income Artist/Freelancer Relief Fund - Provides support for low-income, BIPOC, trans/GNC/NB/Queer artists and freelancers whose livelihoods are being affected by this pandemic in NYC. Click here also if you'd like to donate to the fund.
  • New! Freelancer COVID-19 Emergency Fund is designed for freelancers affected by COVID-19 and its impact (school closures, client cancellations, medical expenses, inability to pay basic living expenses). They stress that applicants ask for what they need right now—not in the long-term—and to try and pay it forward by eventually contributing back to the fund or another charity supporting freelancers. Applications are on a rolling basis; donations needed.

Action Steps for Residencies

  • Create or update your Business Continuity and/or Emergency Preparedness Plan for pandemics.
  • Create a plan for critical functions. (i.e. communications, IT, programming). Aim for redundancy and dispersion (i.e. store important information in different places). No one person should hold all the information. Cross-training and documenting processes is key.
  • Check inventory of essential items. Examine the supply chain. Stock up in the event there is a quarantine.
  • Create a contact tree. Determine who reaches out to whom in the event of an emergency or evacuation. Text chains are great for this! 
  • Make sure that you have a facility closing plan. If it comes to that, what do you need to do to close up and secure the facility?
  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands for 20 seconds or longer, avoid touching your face, sneeze into a tissue or arm, cover your mouth when you cough.
  • The only way to prevent the spread of the virus is to minimize close personal contact between those who are infected. Set protocols for staff, volunteers, and artists.
  • Develop an excellent residency cleaning protocol. Provide materials to frequently clean surfaces, bathrooms, door handles, etc. Update sanitization and cleaning practices across spaces (see this preventative maintenance example from Banff Centre). Ensure that spaces are stocked with hand sanitizer and soap.
  • Plan for absenteeism. Develop a remote work plan and ensure that staff feels comfortable taking time off or working from home. 
  • Communicate with incoming artists-in-residence to follow the recommendations of their local and state officials around travel. No artist should travel if they are sick; ensure that your policies surrounding cancellations and refunds support this.
  • Establish plans on what to do in case an artist becomes sick on campus. How will they quarantine or shelter in place? Where are the nearest medical centers?
  • Postpone public gatherings such as open studios, galas, readings, etc. Consider virtual convenings.
  • Your property insurance coverage often has communicable disease exclusions. However, if there is an interruption in revenue due to the virus, insurance brokers still recommend that you file a formal claim as each carrier interprets policy language differently, and sometimes the courts will change their interpretations of standard policies.
  • Be proactive about talking to funders if you need to change the scope of a granted program. Funders might also be willing to open up restricted funds for operating revenue. However, do your homework: provide a detailed plan, budget, and a clear forecast of how funds will be reallocated. The National Endowment for the Arts can often extend the grant period, the scope, or even the nature of a grant.
  • Appeal to donors to help support gaps in revenue.
  • Be considerate. Do not ask anything of your staff or artists that you would not ask of yourself or someone you care about deeply.

We are strongest when we are connected. We encourage our members to tap into their local and regional authorities as the situation is changing rapidly. We will continue to keep the network updated as we learn more. And we welcome your calls and emails as we move forward together.

Sources: Alliance of Artists Communities, Association of Performing Arts Professionals, League of American Orchestras, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, Theater Communications Group (TCG), and Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.