Sundance Institute pledges $1 million to artists hurt economically by coronavirus pandemic

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Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute is creating a stimulus program for artists, giving $1 million in grants to filmmakers, playwrights and other creative people in financial pain during the coronavirus pandemic.

“When history looks back, this will either be the moment when we invested in artists, making it possible to turn what we’re feeling during these scary and surreal times into powerful, lasting creative work — or it will be the moment we lost a generation of art and artists because we failed to support them when and how they most needed it,” Sundance said Friday in a memo.

The memo is signed by three of the institute’s top leaders: Keri Putnam, Sundance’s executive director; Michelle Satter, the founding director of the institute’s Feature Film Program; and Tabitha Jackson, recently installed director of the Sundance Film Festival. The institute is headquartered in Park City, Utah, and Los Angeles.

A third of the $1 million fund will go to 100 artists who now are supported by Sundance programs. This includes those who were to participate in the institute’s spring and summer labs, which are usually held at Redford’s Sundance resort and other locations — but this year have been moved online to the Sundance Co//ab platform.

The rest of the money will go to “the wider community of independent artists,” according to the memo.

Sundance has partnered with Artist Relief, a new national coalition of grantmaking groups created to aid artists of many disciplines during the pandemic. Artist Relief is giving emergency grants of $5,000 to artists in dire need. Sundance is the first “field partner” to join Artist Relief, the coalition announced Friday.

Sundance will also give money to organizations in the United States and abroad that support artists, particularly those in underrepresented communities — who are being disproportionately hurt by the current economic problems, the Sundance leaders said.

Some of that money will flow through the organizations to the artists they support, and some will go to the organizations themselves. The institute will take suggestions from the artistic community about which organizations will be invited to apply, and institute staff and outside advisers will choose grant recipients from those applicants.

Beyond money, the memo states, Sundance is also working to provide support on such topics as mental health, community building, and distribution and marketing strategy. The institute will offer free programs through the Sundance Co//ab platform — which, the institute says, has increased its membership fourfold in the last month, to 50,000 people in more than 190 countries.

“This is just the first step,” the leaders wrote in their memo, “but it is an important one.”

Sundance is also looking down the road, they wrote, to develop “longer-term reimagination of the ways we support artists and design the systems that enable their work to reach audiences.”

In the memo, Sundance credited several entities for supporting this funding effort, including: the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Family Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, Luminate, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, Sandbox Films and Southwest Airlines.

The memo closes with a message to independent artists: “You are not alone. You are part of a resilient community — a community that will continue to be a much-needed source of refuge, empathy, inspiration and collective power in the days and weeks to come.”