ARTS

In this time of crisis, artists and cultural workers must not be left behind

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At a time when fear grips the nation, it becomes even more necessary to keep creating narratives of hope. But how do we do this when our artists themselves are barely living? Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Ever since the national government put the enhanced community quarantine in place, many Filipinos have lost their livelihood after industries and businesses ground to a halt. But among those most affected by the quarantine are our artists and cultural workers, most of whom live on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis and are even more vulnerable with the cancellation of shoots, projects, and events.

Unlike other workers who have the capacity to work from home, thousands of actors, filmmakers, technicians, painters, designers, and staff cannot do so given the nature of their craft and now have to scrape by with whatever savings they have from their last gig’s paycheck. At a time when fear and powerlessness grips the nation, it becomes even more necessary to keep creating and performing narratives of hope. But how do we do this when our artists themselves are barely living?

Fortunately, several groups have banded together to put up initiatives in support of the most vulnerable in the industry. Whether you’re an artist looking for support in this lockdown or a citizen looking for a place to donate to, here are fundraisers that aim to provide for our artists in these difficult times.

Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers Program (TUPAD)

For artists who have lost their livelihood because of the ECQ, the government offers temporary jobs. TUPAD, or the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers Program, is a Department of Labor and Employment flagship program that aims to contribute to poverty reduction by providing “underemployed, self-employed, and displaced marginalized workers” with temporary employment.

Because of COVID-19 and the ECQ, a new form of TUPAD has been launched: the TUPAD #Bahay Ko, Barangay Ko (#BKBK). Workers who wish to be employed by TUPAD #BKBK will be assigned to the disinfection and sanitation of their houses and their vicinity, for a maximum of 10 days of work. Albeit not a creative sector job, signing up for the sanitation efforts of the government will provide interested workers a salary equal to the highest minimum wage in their region.

Under TUPAD #BKBK, workers will also receive enrollment to group micro-insurance, a basic orientation on Safety and Health through dissemination of brochures, and cleaning solutions. The salary for TUPAD beneficiaries will then be given via money remittance service providers.

DOLE hopes to reach 16,000 informal sector workers with this ₱180 million emergency employment program.

DEAR ACTION! Program

Another government program for artists is the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ DEAR ACTION! program, which is a nationwide program geared towards self-employed audio-visual content workers who were displaced because of the ECQ.

Specifically, eligible beneficiaries include on-camera performers, production staff, and technical crews who are on a no-work, no-pay status, those who do not work for a direct employer, and are not eligible for government instituted benefits from other government agencies.

DEAR ACTION! prioritizes low-income individuals in their disbursement of funds — those who earn ₱3,000 or less per day, or not more than ₱20,000 per project. According to the FDCP guidelines, individuals eligible for the financial assistances are: those who lost at least five work days or five projects that were scheduled on or after the declaration of the community quarantine; those whose scheduled jobs were suspended or cancelled as a direct result of the COVID-19 situation; and those who do not have unemployment insurance benefits from either their employer or from any other government agencies.

AV content workers will then receive a one-time financial assistance worth ₱8,000, which can be used to cover essential expenses during the disaster period. The money will be directly deposited to their bank account or wired via available money remittance services.

For individuals qualified to apply for the program, email the necessary documents (a list can be found on the FDCP website) to dearnationalregistry@fdcp.ph with the subject [APPLICATION] DEAR AV Workers.

Lockdown Cinema Club

For film crew workers looking for support, you may turn to Lockdown Cinema Club, an initiative by indie Filipino filmmakers raising funds to help members of the freelance filmmaking community. The small group behind LCC is composed of directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, production designers, assistant directors, production managers, film editors, and film students.

LCC invites the public to “Watch all you want, give what you can.” Their Facebook page regularly features different Southeast Asian indie films for free, as well as live Q&A series with filmmakers. In return, they ask the public who wish to help displaced low-income, no-work-no-pay film workers to donate via bit.ly/LCCdonate.

Any freelance daily wage earner on a film set that earns less than ₱2,000 a day is eligible to receive funding from LCC. This includes lighting crew, freelance crew, camera grips, electricians, carpenters, assistant hair and make-up, and other support staff. Any film crew member who wants to be part of the beneficiary list should reach out to their own department heads, who should then contact LCC — a protocol set in place given the small volunteer pool running the initiative.

As of April 14, LCC shares that they have collected a total of ₱2,994,368.88 and that they are supporting 1,460 beneficiaries with this money.

Open House Fundraiser

Since all events have been cancelled in this ECQ, workers in the performing arts who depend on live shows and gigs have been put out of work. An online fundraiser called Open House was put together in support of these displaced workers of the performing arts community. This includes actors, vocal coaches and choreographers, makeup artists, technicians, stage managers, and set carpenters, among many others.

“They are a special type of worker that escapes a lot of protection from the state,” shares Toff de Venecia, coordinator of Open House. “They are freelancers and therefore are not formal workers who can avail of DOLE's camp program, nor do they get protection from their employers in the form of benefits, paid leaves, and 13-month pay.”

Open House was created by Artists Welfare Project Inc., Philstage, SPIT, Third World Improv and Ticket2Me, with the goal of fundraising in support of the most vulnerable among the industry. Their aim is to reach ₱1 million to support 500 displaced workers. They’ve already raised more than ₱350,000 since their launch on March 26, and have disbursed ₱160,000 in support of 80 qualified beneficiaries.

In order to raise funds, Open House offers live online classes, shows, and workshops. Ticket sales from these are then used as cash assistance for the most vulnerable artists and creative workers. Interested donors may browse available shows and buy tickets for their chosen show dates at bit.ly/DonateOpenHouse.

For displaced workers in the performing arts community, Open House offers financial assistance worth ₱2,000. To be a qualified beneficiary, freelance workers should meet the following requirements: they should not be a formal worker or covered by an active contract by a company or corporation; they must have been under contract to work between March 12 to April 12; their cumulative contracts between March 12 to April 12 must not exceed ₱15,000; they should have completed work on at least two performing arts projects within the last six months; and they should have a GCash account or access to Palawan or Cebuana Lhuillier pawnshops to receive the financial assistance.

Open House will process the first 100 submissions for the first tranche, subject to availability of funds and approval of Open House secretariat. Interested beneficiaries may fill out the form at bit.ly/ApplyOpenHouse.

ArtHeals Fundraising

ArtHeals Fundraising is an online art exhibition from Negros Occidental that sells pieces by local artists to raise funds. The initiative is managed by the Team Orange Project in partnership with the NVC Foundation (Negrense Volunteers for Change) to purchase PPEs for frontliners and provide funds for artists who need welfare support in these times.

Currently, the ArtHeals Facebook page boasts a gallery of 227 photos of artworks, including oil paintings, painted wood figures, and digital prints. Interested buyers can simply visit the page to view the gallery of artworks up for sale, and comment on a first-come, first-serve basis. After payment is deposited into ArtHeals’ bank accounts (which are also posted on their page), the artwork will be shipped to the buyer once the quarantine is lifted.

ArtHeals shares, “50% [of donations] will go to our frontliners, 40% will go to the artists, and 10% will go to all the artists who didn’t get to sell.” Together with NVC, they have also delivered 500 gowns to frontliners.

The initiative shares that they are still open to artwork donations. Artists who are interested to contribute an artwork to the fundraising effort should email their name, a picture of their work, its title, size, medium, price, contact details, and bank info to info.orangeprojectbcd@gmail.com.

#RaiseForRoadies

Behind every successful band are their hardworking roadies — or the staff who work backstage, transporting and maintaining equipment during gigs. Sadly, no gigs in this lockdown means no pay, too.

Thus, the good folks over at Indie Manila and Red Ninja Productions, in partnership with Roadie Superstar, started the #RaiseForRoadies fundraising project. They host an Instagram Live broadcast every Thursday, 9 p.m. to raise funds as well as to talk about topics that currently affect the music scene. Interested donors may send donations through PayPal, GCash, BPI Mobile, and BDO or through their GoGetFunding page.

In the three weeks since they first launched, the campaign has been backed by 64 people who have raised and donated ₱69,870. The project has also raised ₱16,784.17 offline, bringing their total donations to ₱86,654.17.