Rocket Relief was conceived in response to the emergency needs of individual artists in our community. Artists of every type and across geographic borders have experienced massive financial challenges and losses due to COVID-19. A national arts foundation and multiple local funders banded together to provide funds to meet these needs. Each set of funding had restrictions because of how it was originally raised or provided, before the pandemic and outside the realities of COVID-19. Some funding came from a single foundation, another from general fundraising by a nonprofit, and another from a local county government. Most of the funding was restricted to a specific artistic discipline, and some of it was restricted geographically. Thus, Rocket Relief is both responsive to the needs of beneficiaries and shaped to maintain relationships with long-term funders.
At launch of cycle 1, $120,000 in total was available in grants to artists of all disciplines in the Rocket Relief region. At the end of cycle 2 an additional $90,000 was raised providing a total sum of $210,000 to fund Rocket Relief. Over 700 artists applied for the grant. The total number of grants awarded at the end of cycle 2 was 210 using all funds raised.
Since the launch of cycle 1 on May 1 we have seen increased economic instability and the immense toll of the coronavirus pandemic in our community. We have learned more about what is impacting artists from the 700 applications we received and made adjustments to cycle 2 based on learnings from cycle 1.
Here is some information we gathered from Rocket Relief applicants in cycle 1 and 2.
WHO DID CYCLE 1 & 2 ROCKET RELIEF GRANTS GO TO?
Artistic Disciplines: The pie charts above compare the percentage of all applications by each artistic discipline to the percentage of all artistic disciplines who received a grant in cycle 1 and cycle 2*. 62% of applicants self-identified as visual/multidisciplinary artists, followed by 24% as dancers or musicians, 12% as theatre artists, and 2% as performative storytellers. The disproportion between all applicants and recipients by discipline most notably theatre artists was influenced by the restricted allocation by funders to each discipline in cycle 1. Cycle 2 used the remainder of unrestricted funds. Distribution of the unrestricted funds to artists was not influenced by artistic discipline but on the risk factors that most greatly impacted applicants. This can be seen when comparing cycle 1 with cycle 2 awardees.
Risk Factors: Risk factors were used to prioritize applicants based on need. When reviewing risk factors it was found that 64% of all applicants indicated they did not have a financial safety net, 35% indicated unmanageable debt, 30% indicated challenges in supporting dependents and 27% did not have health insurance. Additionally, many applicants went on to cite concerns in paying rent, bills, and medical costs. The pandemic has seen an increase of these risks. Below is a comparison of all the risk factors taken into account between all applicants and grant recipients and a comparison of risk factors impacting awardees between cycle 1 and cycle 2.
Race & Ethnicity: Race and ethnicity demographic information was not factored into the selection process in cycle 1. When reviewing race and ethnicity data** from cycle 1, it was found that 28% of all applications were from artists who identified as Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color (BIPOC) and 28% of grants went to applicants who identified as BIPOC.
** Race and ethnicity options in the Rocket Relief Fund application included Black/African American, Native/Indigenous, Latino/Latina/Latinx, Asian/South Asian/Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern/North African, Biracial/Multiracial, Other, who in this summary are identified as BIPOC. Additional options included white/Caucasian and prefer not to answer. Applicants were able to choose multiple racial and ethnic identities.
Below is a summary of how risk factors in cycle 1 had impacted artists who identified race and ethnicity. 39% of all applicants who identified as BIPOC indicated they did not have health insurance, 78% indicated they did not have a financial safety net. 22% of all applicants who identified as white/Caucasian indicated they did not have health insurance, 57% indicated they did not have a financial safety net.
The CDC lists factors that put BIPOC communities at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19 such as discrimination, no access to health insurance, income gaps, crowded housing, and homelessness. In recognition of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in BIPOC communities, demographic information provided in applications were used to grant at least 60% of the awards in cycle 2 to artists who self-identify as Black, Indigenous and/or artists of color. By granting at least 60% of awards to artists of color, Rocket Relief saw a 4% increase in the number of applications from BIPOC artists. The graph below provides a summary of race/ethnicity and comparison for both cycle 1 and 2. Cycle 2 awarded 73% of grants to artists of color when factoring in demographic information in the selection process. Of the 210 grants awarded from both cycles, 90 (43%) grants went to artists of color.
LGBTQIA+: The total number of applicants who identify as LGBTQIA+ was 23%. Grants awarded to artists who identify as LGBTQIA+ was 25%. When comparing cycles, a slight increase of 2% is seen in awards going to artists who identify as LGBTQIA+ in cycle 2.
Disability: In both cycles, 7% of all applicants identify as a person with a disability/s, and 6% of grants awarded went to artists who identify as a person with a disability/s.
Education: Below is a visual representation of the level of education attained by applicants and grant recipients.
WHERE DID CYCLE 1 ROCKET RELIEF GRANTS GO?
Location by State: Most applications received came from the 80-mile radius surrounding Kansas City with the exception of 4% of applicants from other states outside of Missouri and Kansas.
Cycle 1 saw 38% of grants awarded to artists from Kansas and 62% from Missouri. Cycle 2 saw a notable increase of grants awarded to artists living in Missouri (76%) as a result of increasing the number of grants awarded to artists of color and having unrestricted funds not associated with location or artistic discipline. However this did not impact the overall number of grants awarded as can be seen with these two pie charts.
Location by County: Approximately 13% of grants awarded went to artists living in regional areas. A total of 92 (13%) applications came from regional areas. Below is a break-up of the number of artists living in each county who received a grant.
By increasing the number of BIPOC grant awardees in cycle 2, a 14% increase of awards went to artists in Jackson County in cycle 2 compared to cycle 1.
Summary: Two notable changes were implemented in Cycle 2; increasing the number of BIPOC grant awardees by at least 60%, and using funds not restricted by artistic discipline. These changes to the Rocket Relief process saw:
- An increase of grants awarded to artists residing in Jackson County.
- An increase of grants awarded to dancers/musicians and visual artists.
- Over 73% of grants awarded to artists of color, resulting in a 14% overall increase of BIPOC awardees; 29% at the end of cycle 1 to 43% at the end of cycle 2.
- Gender identity, LGBTQIA+, and disability representation in grant recipients saw little change between cycle 1 and cycle 2.
- An increase of grants awarded to artists who described their education level as high school.
Want to know more about what we learned in cycle 1, email firstname.lastname@example.org.