The art of random selection is never more palpable than when playing the lottery. Made gamblers by chance in post-Katrina New Orleans, local visual artists, writers and performing artists will gather on Saturday, April 21, at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (843 Carondelet St., Suite 1, 522-5471; www.jonathanferrara.com) to participate in a special lottery grant program.
The ARTDOCS Rx grant program will give away 40 $1,000 grants at this public drawing to help local artists rebuild studios, replace equipment and purchase art supplies.
As part of a larger effort to support the local economy and sustain the city's unique artistic and creative culture, winners must be full-time New Orleans artists who plan to continue working in the area, and the money they receive must be spent at locally owned and operated Orleans-parish businesses.
Gallery owner Jonathan Ferrara designed the grant program as an extension of ARTDOCS -- Artists Receiving Treatment Doctors Offering Crucial Services, a local nonprofit founded by Ferrara and Dr. Vince Morelli to provide health care to artists who don't have insurance. Ferrara and Morelli have now expanded the program to include other services to help artists recover losses resulting from Hurricane Katrina and encourage the revitalization of New Orleans' artistic community.
While giving away the grants by drawing is part of an IRS stipulation to prevent favoritism, Ferrara says he considers this event Phase One of a program designed to reach as many artists as possible.
"We're still raising money," he says. "People can make donations to the program online. It would be great to do a Phase Two. We're going to see how this works, how many people it will help. We want to get the money directly to the artists so it's not like Road Home, where you're waiting for years and years."
The grant program also is designed to cover things the New Orleans musicians' clinics do not.
"What we found was that there was a lot of help for musicians and cultural institutions and things of that nature, but as to actual direct help for (other) artists, we did not find anything," Ferrara says. "We have become a conduit for directly donating to the artist. We have enough money to fund the clinic for this year, so with the extra money we raised, about $20,000, we said we're going to create this ARTDOCS grant program."
Money for the program came through a variety of fundraising efforts including proceeds from Ferrara's New Orleans Artists In Exile exhibition, the Sweet ART Katrina Fund, donations by Chris Rose from sales of his book 1 Dead In Attic and a Mardi Gras party fundraiser from local artist James Michalopoulos.
Having decided to put this money toward the grant program, Ferrara then approached Idea Village, a nonprofit support company whose mission is to facilitate entrepreneurial innovation, to ask for matching funds.
As part of its mission, Idea Village believes that supporting entrepreneurs and encouraging them to support other businesses in turn contributes to the creation of a self-sustaining community. As Idea Village President Tim Williamson and Manager Lauren Baum note, their company became involved with Ferrara and ARTDOCS through its Pay It Forward program.
After Katrina, Idea Village provided a $4,000 grant to support Ferrara's New Orleans Artists In Exile traveling exhibition. When he approached the group with his grant idea, they were inspired by his entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to the artistic community and agreed to match the $20,000 he had already raised, Williamson says. More than random acts of kindness, the entrepreneurial ventures supported by Idea Village promote a chain of goodwill and economic growth they and Ferrara hope to see develop in the artistic community as well.
"We value the arts, we want the creative people of this community to feel valued and that people are trying to help them," Ferrara says. "It's not just musicians. There are plenty of other creative types that need to be valued in this community as well."
Artists should bring their completed applications to Jonathan Ferrara Gallery between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on April 21 to register. Artist James Michalopoulos will draw winners at random starting at 4 p.m. All artists, entrepreneurs and art supporters are welcome.
- Gallery owner Jonathan Ferrara conceived the ARTDOCS Rx grant program to help artists overcome losses they suffered during Hurricane Katrina, and to bolster the local economy.