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Strengthening Artists' Resilience: A 4-Step Action Plan for Preparedness

A Collaborative Blog Presented by CERF+, NCAPER, and NYFA

The COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies, including severe storms, drought, wildfire, and theft, require us to change how we work and communicate. That makes preparedness more critical now than ever before for artists to protect their practice. But what exactly is preparedness? It’s taking steps NOW to help protect yourself and your assets before an emergency so you’re more resilient and able to bounce back quickly. Artists in ALL disciplines have assets to be protected!

As we mark Preparedness Month in September, we're excited to share a simple 4-Step Plan to help you get prepared.

What You’ll Need:

A computer, laptop, or tablet.

Do you prefer low-tech? Grab paper and pens or markers.

Get your studio mates or artist friends to do it with you. The more minds, the better!

Step One: List your assets

Think through everything that allows you to carry out your artistic practice. These can include:

  • Physical space (home, if you work out of it; studio; rehearsal space; theatre; gallery/sales space; office space; storage areas)

  • Physical items (inventory, supplies, computers, equipment/gear, sets, props, cameras, manuscripts, fixtures, instruments, recordings/archives, paper, and digital records, including contracts/vendor/customer contacts)

  • Events (sales, festivals, performances, rehearsals, classes, workshops, tours, fundraisers)

  • Relationships (company members, students, agents/managers, artistic associates/assistants,

  • Customers/collectors/gallerists, presenters, venue managers, audiences, donors

  • What can you least afford to lose? List things related to your practice/studio and career you can least afford to lose. This might include your purchased or handed-down tools, one-of-a-kind objects/props/costumes, computer/hard drive, original works/manuscripts/scores, ceramic glaze recipes, mailing list, computer passwords, work samples, or documentation.

Step Two: Assess your risks

While it is ideal to prepare for any type of emergency (known as all-hazards planning), start by considering the types of risks and potential effects that are most likely to occur depending on where you live and work. These might include strong winds from hurricanes and tornadoes, flooding, lightning, drought, fire, blackouts, terrorism/acts of violence, theft/vandalism, or cyberhacks. Think about not only your space/materials but how, for example, a bad storm could impact your ability to sell your work/get to a gig/hold class. Consider less obvious things like an injury or illness or needing to care for a family member.

Step Three: Protect your assets and minimize risks

  • Brainstorm ways to protect or minimize the list made in Step One with the risks you identified in Step Two. For example, if you cannot afford to lose your archive or digital documentation, you might invest in cloud storage or transfer your data to a hard drive that is stored at a safe off-site location.

  • Make duplicates of critical paper and digital records and similarly store these.

Other mitigation actions:

  • Store what is most important in the most protective way possible: off the floor (not in an attic or basement), away from windows, in airtight containers/acid-free storage, or a fireproof safe.

  • Buy the right insurance plans for your needs, and remember that homeowners insurance won’t cover business losses! Look into business, flood, homeowners/renters, and other insurance policies.

  • Make sure your contracts and agreements – oral and written – provide for the event of a disaster and you understand what will happen in that event: rescheduling, getting paid, not having to return pre-payments, compensation for loss/damage to work. Understand Force Majeure (Acts of God) clauses.

  • Charge phones, computers, etc., and have portable chargers fully charged. Have LED lights throughout spaces, plus portable LED lights.

Step Four: Create your Emergency Plan

You may need to evacuate quickly, or you may need to shelter in place. Either way, you want to decide ahead of time what steps you’ll take, what items you need, and how you’ll communicate with important people.

If there’s a major weather event, industrial accident, or civil unrest, you may need to shelter in place. To determine what you need to purchase and do to shelter in place, refer to Also, create a vital contacts list and gather and package vital documents in multiple places (save as a hard copy and store online).

When/if you evacuate, you may have to leave immediately to get to a safe space, or you may have some warning time. With some notice, what will you do to prep/secure your space and assets? Include turning off electronics and utilities, if necessary. Where will you go? And who do you need to notify about where you’ll be, what you’re doing, and any canceled events?

Have a contact list ready of family, friends, company members/staff, colleagues, and places where you would have been showing/performing/teaching, etc.

Create an emergency “Go Kit” to grab on your way out. Remember, you may or may not have power, phone, or online access.

Consider including a full list of essential contacts, laminated/in a protective covering, and a copy online. Include the names/addresses/phone numbers of family members, friends you need to reach, colleagues (venues, galleries, co-creators, company/ensemble members, staff), places of work, managers of facilities/storage spaces), insurance agents, doctors/healthcare providers, attorneys, accountants, managers/agents, FEMA numbers, emergency centers – and anyone else you may need to reach in a crisis. Include copies of insurance policies, corporate information/EIN, etc.

In addition to your vital documents package: cash; credit cards; medications; most precious art practice assets you can take and that will be safe where you’re going; clothing; toiletries; cellphone and battery power; computer; portable hard drive.

In closing, remember that preparedness is not just about facing the unexpected; it's about empowering yourself to protect what matters most in your artistic journey. By following these four steps and taking proactive measures, you'll be better equipped to navigate any challenges that come your way. Your art is a valuable part of our world, and ensuring its resilience is a commitment to your craft and the community that cherishes it. So, let's stand together, artists and allies alike, and fortify artists and arts organization's creative practices for a brighter, more resilient future.

Learn more about the organizations in our collaborative alliance:

The Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF+) serves craft artists across the United States and territories by providing education programs, advocacy, network building, and emergency relief. Our online resources are relevant to all artists, free and open to everyone.

NCAPER, the National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response, is a voluntary task force of national, regional, state, and local arts organizations, public agencies, and foundations. The Coalition helps ensure that artists, arts/cultural organizations, cultural funders, and arts businesses have the capacity and ability to respond effectively to disasters and emergencies affecting the arts and culture sector.

NYFA (the New York Foundation for the Arts) provides artists, emerging arts organizations, arts administrators, and students with critical support, professional development tools, and resources for defining and achieving career success.



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