Vermont Arts Council

Still We Rise: Artists Adapt to the Pandemic

As 2021 draws to a close, we’re taking a look back at the artists we’ve worked with to celebrate the successes and honor the hardships experienced over another year of the pandemic. Covid-19 has been a test of humanity’s creativity, and the Council is helping artists and makers rise to the occasion.

With extra funding for our Artist Development Grants thanks to a new partnership with the Vermont Community Foundation and generous contributions from Higher Ground and other donors, we were able to make 85 awards in FY2021 totaling $47,522, with a special focus on helping creatives make the digital pivot. Funding supported 16 website redesigns and 11 digital marketing consultations. The grants also helped artists hire videographers to document their work for the web and paid for courses and equipment for online instruction in poetry, woodcarving, music, and more. 

Elizabeth Kurylo.

Choreographer and dancer Elizabeth Kurylo of Corinth directed a documentary about the resiliency of creatives during Covid. She noted that the Council’s support enabled her to keep creating “during the worst of the pandemic.” With her Artist Development Grant, Kurylo hired a videographer to document the making of a ten-minute dance solo in all its stages, showing the audience perspectives and details not usually seen in a live performance. As Kurylo wrote in her application, the pandemic “profoundly altered my perspective on dance both as a creator and as a viewer.” For Kurylo, learning the medium of video was the only way she could continue her craft. Her documentary, COVID, A Poem and A Rope, premiered in June 2021 at a Junction Dance Festival fundraising event, and can be viewed online at the festival’s website (scroll down to the video).

Julia Vallera as she appears on Etsy.

Winooski-based graphic designer Julia Vallera is no stranger to the digital revolution. She has a long background as a technology and design consultant for organizations such as Mozilla, Tech Impact, and the Metropolitan New York Library Council, and in 2017 she was Maker in Residence at Burlington’s Generator Maker Space for a project that focused on public awareness of data privacy and digital security. In 2020, Vallera started a new graphic design and digital media consulting business, JV Creative LLC, and she knew exactly what to do to get her new business off the ground in the time of Covid. With an Artist Development Grant, Vallera pursued online business and marketing training, purchased targeted digital advertising, and joined an online freelance design community where she could connect with others and find more work.

Martha Beauchamp displaying her website.

Martha Beauchamp of North Bennington is a fabric artist specializing in quilted, custom pet and animal portraits. In her application for an Artist Development Grant, she recalled a prescient Facebook post she’d made in January 2020: “This year will bring forth my online store, an Instagram presence, and possibly a blog.” Then came Covid, and the absolute necessity of an online presence was laid bare for Beauchamp. Her grant supported the development and search-engine optimization of her new e-commerce website. Beauchamp had expected to return to in-person craft shows and fairs by 2021, and while the ongoing pandemic has changed many of her plans, she was thrilled to be able to launch two new collections through her online store this fall.

Elissa Campbell in her studio.

When the pandemic hit, Montpelier-based book artist Elissa Campbell lost 50% of her usual income because she relied on in-person sources like craft shows, open studios, and in-person teaching. She made it her goal to transition to teaching virtually, grow her sales through e-commerce, and pursue online business and marketing courses. Her first virtual bookmaking course, “Find Closure 101,” launched on the online learning platform Teachable in October of this year. “Creating my first online course provided me with an evergreen asset, something that I can reuse with future students,” said Campbell. “I still believe in the value of in-person teaching and look forward to when it’s safe to do so again, but this means that I won’t be limited in the meantime.”

These are just a few of the ways Artist Development Grants helped Vermonters adapt their creative practices for Covid-19 pandemic. Visit our recent grantees page to learn about all 85 grantees in FY2021. To fund your next pandemic-style pivot, apply for an Artist Development Grant today. The deadline for our current round of funding is Feb. 14, 2022.

All artist photos courtesy of the artists.