By Meghan Power
Many artists in Alberta are working from gig-to-gig and living paycheque-to-paycheque, they often don’t have access to regular health benefits. EAR has been trying to provide that safety net for artists, giving them the space they need to focus their energy on their practice and creating, instead of spending time trying to meet their basic human needs.
EAR came into being in 2007, when a group of artists came together to help a fellow artist in need amidst a health crisis. Since then, EAR has become evermore aware of how vulnerable artists are, when struck with an unexpected hardship, or health and medical emergencies. The average annual income for a visual artist, for example, is among the lowest in the country and access to extended benefits is rare.
EAR’s Emergency Relief Funds can aid any individual, professional, artist residing in Calgary, who is in urgent need due to an unforeseen medical emergency, or other catastrophic event. In addition to health benefits, EAR also offers professional development and wellness programs. EAR’s newest programs available to artists are Studio E, a twice monthly inclusive gathering that offers open conversation and networking opportunities, as well as in-person support; and access to group health insurance and benefits, all thanks to recent CADA funding.
As a small non-profit EAR relies on many different funding sources. According to Marianne Elder, EAR administrator, “This type of funding means a lot. It allows us to empower artists to be artists. We’re a small non-profit, but we’re maturing and growing, and it is exactly this kind of funding that is helping us to grow and support more artists.” With this financial support, EAR has been able to shift to being a more proactive resource for artists. It has also allowed for them to develop and offer more programs that support the well-being of artists in a variety of different ways. But most importantly it will allow EAR to be more sustainable in the long term and therefore, make EAR’s programs and benefit programs more comprehensive and more sustainable.
“The funding from CADA is particularly helpful,” says Marianne, “there is an element of flexibility built into it and that allows us to apply the funding to our mandate and our programming vision, which is based on what we know Alberta artists need, instead of us having to try and make programs that fit a more rigid funding model and may not fully serve the needs of Alberta’s artists.”