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Emergency art relief fund helping Western New York's cultural organizations stay afloat amid pandemic

Stitch Buffalo is one of more than 150 local groups receiving funding from the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo's vibrant arts community has been hurting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A new giving campaign is helping make sure WNY's favorite cultural organizations stay on their feet until they can share their gifts with the public again. 

The Arts Services Initiative of Western New York provides resources to independent artists and non-profit arts organizations around town. This spring, they launched an Arts Emergency Relief Fund, to help cultural groups stay afloat throughout the Covid closures. They recently awarded more than 150 grants, pouring more than $235,000 into local arts programs.

"One of the things I think is really special about the arts and cultural community is that we're meant to be there for our community in a variety of ways," said ASI's executive director, Jen Swan-Kilpatrick. "Whether it's holding workshops and classes, teaching anyone to paint, having performances and having that collective experience, and we wanted to make sure that on the other side of this COVID impact that the arts community can still be there."

Many of the artists and organizations used the grant money to make adjustments to their spaces, programming, and bring back their staff to prepare for re-opening.

Stitch Buffalo was one of the organizations that received a grant. The workshop brings refugee women together to help them launch careers in textile arts, including embroidering and beading. Stitch gives them tools, education, and a paycheck for the work they do at their shop on Niagara Street. When the pandemic struck in March, the women took their materials home and kept creating items for their Etsy shop, as well as fulfilling many mask orders. 

When the Stitch Buffalo team heard about the emergency arts relief fund from ASI, they applied for a grant on behalf of the women they employ. 

"Women who have been involved in Stitch for two years, four years, five years, they have come to depend on the income that they make as artisans from Stitch Buffalo and they are artists," said Executive Director Dawne Hoeg "They are creators and beautiful creators so we decided to apply on behalf of them." 

Stitch received a $5,000 grant from the fund, which they used to purchase the goods the woman created at home throughout the pandemic and donate them back to ASI to use as employee and donor gifts. 

Click here to learn more about Stitch Buffalo's workshop and shop their Etsy shop. 

Click here to learn more about the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York and how they are supporting WNY's artists and cultural groups.

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