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Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF), which has long supported arts and culture through its Creative County Initiative (CCI), is responding to the severe challenges artists and cultural nonprofits are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first in what the foundation expects will be a series of solutions for the creative community focuses on direct support for our region’s artists. And you can help. 

Give to ECCF’s new Essex County Artist FundSeeded by ECCF and administered by Rocky Neck Art Colony, Inc., the Fund will provide grants of $400 to support Essex County artists experiencing financial losses due to the crisis. In addition to providing financial support, ECCF will elevate the visibility of these artists by featuring their art online.

The arts move, inspire and connect us, especially in trying times. And as we continue to confront the widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of us are linking virtually to artists, musicians, writers and other creatives for a daily dose of much-needed strength, positivity and joy.

But today, the creative ecosystem—like so many other facets of our social and economic landscape—is taking a huge hit from the pandemic. With public gatherings banned and venues closed, shows, events, classes and gigs across Essex County are being cancelled. The pandemic is threatening livelihoods and shuttering a large swath of the region’s arts sector.  

According to a recent Mass Cultural Council survey of cultural nonprofits and individual artists statewide, the loss of revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic. Massachusetts cultural organizations reported a revenue loss to date of more than $55.7 million; artists have reported a $2.89 million loss. And the worst may be yet to come.

“The majority of Essex County’s individual creative talents are freelancers without a safety net and they are facing unprecedented challenges right now,” said Karen Ristuben, ECCF’s Creative County Initiative program director. “And social distancing, while necessary for combating the virus, has forced cultural nonprofits to shut their doors and cut staffing to the bone.”

Complementing the foundation’s Essex County COVID-19 Response Fund, the new Essex County Artist Fund will quickly deploy critical resources to local artists.

“This is a time to lift up the artists who lift up Essex County,” said ECCF president and CEO Beth Francis. “These are people whose work brings us together and gives us hope. Our local artists, musicians, actors and writers make our region the unique and wonderful place it is, and we need to support them now more than ever.”

ECCF’s goal with this new fund is to help mitigate the enormous economic challenges artists are facing during this crisis and to let them know how important they are to our communities. 

“Supporting our artists now will ensure that they will be there for us when we get to the other side of this crisis,” added Francis. “When we are able to come together again, arts and culture will be a vital part of how we rebuild.”

The Essex County Artist Fund is the first effort in ECCF’s response for our arts and culture community. For updates to the foundation’s COVID-19 response, and to donate to the fund, please visit