50 LA area literary organizations appeal to City Council for stimulus funding; PEN America’s Writers’ Emergency Fund grants

February shot of downtown Los Angeles with Mount Baldy in the background after a large snow storm. Photo was taken from Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. Photograph courtesy of Alek Leckszas CC BY-SA 4.0

“Publishing and printing alone account for 160,000 jobs in our city, and combined with writers in fashion and entertainment, we make up a significant portion of the creative industry in LA. Supporting arts and the creative community means supporting literary organizations and writers.” said Michelle Franke,



Today, PEN America–alongside 826LA, Lambda Literary, and Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, and close to 50 Los Angeles area organizations–appealed to the Los Angeles City Council to provide support for literary organizations in any upcoming funding decisions related to the COVID-19 recovery. In a letter sent to Council members today, PEN America and its allies insisted literary organizations be specifically represented in any efforts to revitalize the larger arts community in the city.

“The City Council has already done so much to support the arts and nonprofits at this critical time, and we, along with our allies, are hoping to ensure literary organizations are included in those efforts,” said Michelle Franke, executive director of PEN America’s Los Angeles office. “Publishing and printing alone account for 160,000 jobs in our city, and combined with writers in fashion and entertainment, we make up a significant portion of the creative industry in LA. Supporting arts and the creative community means supporting literary organizations and writers. We hope the Council agrees.”

In addition to including literary organizations in future stimulus funding, the letter also calls for relief for commercial rents for nonprofit literary organizations and funding to support a Los Angeles COVID-19 narrative project that would commission and pay writers to document the effects of the pandemic of the lives of people in Los Angeles.

“The literary arts are not optional; they are essential to our city and our communities,” the letter reads. “Writers are our conscience, our watchdogs, leading in the important work of bearing witness to history and helping us make sense of our lives and our world. We must ensure that their work continues.”

PEN America has more than 7,500 writers, journalists, and other literary professionals and their allies as members across the country. Many are facing significant hardships as writing jobs, as well as side gigs, have all but evaporated under the strain of the coronavirus and the concurrent economic downturn. A survey from Americans for the Arts showed that some 95 percent of artists and creative professionals have lost income due to the pandemic. Literary and media arts organizations have reported median losses over $200,000 per organization.

PEN America

WRITERS’ EMERGENCY FUND GRANTS

PEN America’s Writers’ Emergency Fund provides grants of $500 to $1,000 to writers in the United States facing acute financial need as a result of the pandemic.  Since the fund re-launched in response to the crisis in late March, PEN America has received some 850 applications and so far processed grants to 400 writers, including 107 in the state of California.

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This post is courtesy of PEN America.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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HEADS-UP MY FELLOW CALIFORNIANS: PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowships L.A.

 

“Arts and culture are inextricably linked to our humanity,” said Nashormeh Lindo, California Arts Council Chair. “They serve as a universal touchpoint for understanding and addressing our societal issues—dismantling inequity, healing trauma, reframing justice, inspiring truth and shaping futures.”



This week the California Arts Council announced a grant award of $18,000 to PEN America LA to support its Emerging Voices Fellowships offering literary mentorship to new writers isolated from the literary establishment.

“Emerging Voices is grateful to receive support from the California Arts Council, allowing us to continue our decades-long mission to enrich and diversify the literary community in Los Angeles and beyond at a critical time for writers and their stories,” Michelle Franke, Executive Director of PEN America LA.

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Local Impact supports community-driven arts projects for small and mid-sized arts organizations to foster equity, access, and opportunity in historically marginalized communities. The program centers the arts as a vehicle for building strong, healthy, vibrant, and resilient communities. Historically marginalized communities may include but are not limited to African and African American; Arab; Asian and Asian American; Latinx; Middle Eastern; Native American and Indigenous Californian; Pacific Islander; lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender and gender-variant people; people with disabilities; women; low-income, rural, or immigrant and refugee communities.

PEN America LA is one of 190 grantees chosen for the Local Impact program. The award was featured as part of a larger announcement from the California Arts Council, with grant funds totaling a projected $24,508,541 for 2018-19, the highest investment in statewide arts programming since the 2000-01 fiscal year.

“Arts and culture are inextricably linked to our humanity,” said Nashormeh Lindo, California Arts Council Chair. “They serve as a universal touchpoint for understanding and addressing our societal issues—dismantling inequity, healing trauma, reframing justice, inspiring truth and shaping futures.”

The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California’s diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Vice Chair Larry Baza, Juan Devis, Jodie Evans, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Donn K. Harris, and Louise McGuinness. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov.

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PEN.org logo

PEN America has joined forces with the former PEN Center USA in California as one nationwide organization united under the PEN America banner. Now with 7,000 members coast-to-coast, PEN is an even stronger force to defend against looming threats to open discourse and a free press, to stand with writers and creators who face persecution, and to celebrate literary excellence both established and emerging. The PEN America Los Angeles office, led by Executive Director Michelle Franke, remains a vital hub for carrying on established programs and expanding advocacy in defense of free expression worldwide and other new initiatives.

This post courtesy of PEN America and the California Arts Council.  Illustrations are in the public domain.



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Recent in digital publications: 
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* Remembering Mom, HerStry
* Three poems, Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
“Over His Morning Coffee,” Front Porch Review

A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton



 

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