By Maiya Mahoney | firstname.lastname@example.org
A deafening silence looms on St. George Street in St. Augustine, Fla. No guitar melodies flow out of local restaurants. Museums showcasing the history and culture of America’s oldest city remain closed. As the world faces the coronavirus pandemic, many people are uncertain about the future. One group impacted by the coronavirus is St. Augustine’s musicians and artists.
Working to help local creatives during this time is the St. Johns Cultural Council (SJCA). SJCA is a local arts agency responsible for providing support to local artists and giving tourists access to local art. Executive Director of SJCA, Christina Parrish Stone, finds new ways to help local artists.
“It’s been interesting trying to convert things that we normally do in person to online. Since we do work with artists and art organizations and because we make grants for events, the people that we serve have been impacted more than most people,” Stone said.
“They were some of the first ones to be affected by the virus when all of the events were cancelled. Once restaurants and bars started closing and they lost opportunities to work, we had to create a whole new way of supporting them.”
The SJCA reallocated fundings and started the Arts Emergency Fund, which has supported 50 local organizations and artists. Stone and her staff also started an online concert series on their Facebook. Through the online concert series, musicians perform and receive stipends from the SJCA. People are also able to tune in and donate. The series is live weekdays on Facebook at 7 p.m.
“The online concert series is pretty amazing, and I’m very fortunate,” local musician Chelsea Saddler said.
“The response from the community has been overwhelming. It felt good to play again and put things into perspective.”
Saddler, a full-time musician in St. Augustine, has spent most of her days looking online for different grants, searching for a new, more affordable home and looking for ways to help other musicians struggling. On St. Patrick’s Day, Saddler launched the St. Augustine’s Musicians Relief Fund. So far, the fund has raised over $11,000 and has been distributed to 53 musicians.
“Local artists are a huge, important part of our economy all the time because tourism is the biggest part of our economy,” Stone said.
“What would people do when they’re stuck at home without artists? Watching television, reading books, listening to music, live streaming concerts and watching movies is all because of artists creating that for us.”
Currently, the gallery is closed and many of Wilson’s shows have been rescheduled. According to Wilson, the internet saved her, as she has been able to continue to sell her work on social media.
“Supporting local artists is always important, not just now,” Wilson said. “St. Augustine’s art is a part of its culture.”
As the days go by, the future for local creatives remains unknown. Through the efforts of the St. Johns Cultural Council and artists like Saddler, some of St. Augustine’s artists have been able to find some relief.
“Sometimes we tend to forget how important arts and culture is to our quality of life. Now that we are all staying at home, I think that it’s become more obvious to everyone how important arts and culture is,” Stone said.
“I hope people will remember that once things become somewhat more normal to value arts and culture more than what they did in the past.”