When partners Andrew Novick, known for his quirky pop-culture forays into art, food and music, and Merhia Wiese, who handles outreach for Meow Wolf Denver, were inadvertently named Denver's Power Couple by Westword in December of 2018, Wiese took the title to heart, accepting the public-spirited responsibility that came with it. As the coronavirus crisis grips the city’s arts community — and especially those black, indigenous and queer creatives already battling the effects of life on the social margins — with cancellations and closures that threaten livelihoods, she’s finally found that calling.
Inspired by author Ijeoma Oluo’s Seattle Artists Relief Fund project developed in the face of theater, music, literary and art event cancellations in that city due to the spread of COVID-19, Wiese began to wonder why Denver doesn’t have a similar fund.
“It made sense that the first artist relief fund started in Seattle, one of the first cities impacted,” Wiese says, noting that it evolved as a grassroots effort without support from the City of Seattle. With that in mind, she immediately began researching possible resources in the Denver area.
“People were asking me where to get relief assistance, but I was struggling to find anything,” Wiese adds. “I tagged Jared Polis, Candi CdeBaca and others, asking if they knew of anything. Nobody was answering me.
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“I'm lucky enough to have a job. I can get time off if I’m sick.” But others aren’t so lucky. “We couldn’t wait for the government to act and do something,” Wiese notes. Though she’s heard rumors and rumblings about the city joining the fray, she adds, “These are things that should have been done a week ago.”
So Wiese began to devise a plan for Denver in the model of Seattle’s fund, with a focus on helping underserved creatives. She pulled together a creative team of six local people in the arts, including Marnie Ward, Kia Ruiz, Quana Madison, Molina Speaks and Novick, and the $150,000 Denver Metro Area Artist COVID-19 Relief Fund GoFundMe campaign was born.
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The page is already getting attention since launching late last week, and applications are already being taken for review from qualifying candidates who might need help paying for rent, utilities, groceries, health care and other life essentials. Grants will be reviewed and meted out while the fund is still growing.
“Colorado has the largest percentage of creative individuals and creative industries in the country,” Wiese says. Denver has changed because of our artists; we have amazingly creative people here. Help is needed. If Seattle can do it, it should be done here and in every city and every state.”
For the time being, at least, Denver’s hardest-luck cases are covered.
Learn more and donate to the Denver Metro Area Artist COVID-19 Relief Fund at gofundme.com.