I am amazed, in awe, and inspired by the way many nonprofit leaders – many of whom are women – are leading their organizations through the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. So much so, that I’ve decided to do a special series about Nonprofit Executive Women who are living in the trenches, working to keep their nonprofit running, and doing critical work to continue to serve individuals and families during this crisis. I’m curious about their work and the people they’re serving, their biggest concerns, and how they are taking care of themselves and those around them. So, I asked!

Julie Goodman, President & CEO, Arts Council of Indianapolis

Julie has spent more than two decades advocating for the arts. Prior to moving back to Indianapolis (she grew up here and graduated from Carmel High School), she served as either a staff member or Board leadership with Cincinnati organizations such as Cincinnati Opera, ArtWorks (responsible for the city’s public art program), MUSE Women’s Choir, Madcap Puppets, the Chamber Music Society, and Linton Music Series. She also served as an arts organization liaison and representative for the region’s arts agency, ArtsWave. To say she is committed to and passionate about the arts is an understatement. Her expertise in communications, marketing, community engagement, and fundraising is essential to helping artists and arts organizations thrive – now more than ever.

Q.  Who are you serving and how are you serving them during this crisis?

A.  In good times and challenging times like these, the Arts Council of Indianapolis remains committed to its role as an advocate and service agent for arts organizations and artists in Central Indiana. We’re supporting 30,000 independent artists, freelancers and contract employees, and more than 125 organizations. Given the current situation, our work has pivoted 100 percent in the way we serve them. We are focused on providing immediate relief to artists, researching so that we can better advocate on their behalf, connecting people to the arts, and our artists to resources, support and sustainability, and recovery efforts.

Q.  Have you added, changed, or deleted any services because of COVID-19?

A.  Our funding focus has changed significantly. The magnitude of impact this has on arts organizations and artists is enormous. This is hitting everybody in an unprecedented way and affecting every part of our cultural community. As early as March 16, we were aware of more than 1,000 cancellations of events, openings, performances, classes, and exhibitions. Those numbers have certainly increased as this crisis continues. We also learned that 95 percent of our artists anticipate significant financial losses, layoffs, and financial instability. With the generosity of funders committed to the arts, we were able to quickly establish the Indy Arts & Culture COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. This fund will provide nearly 800 rapid response grants to bridge the severe loss of wages that make many members of our creative community vulnerable. We are also working with the city to accelerate our annual grants program that we administer and distribute – $1.4 million to arts organizations to support general operating budgets. Through all of this, we are committed to helping ensure that #IndyKeepsCreating now and well into the future.

The way we experience art right now has certainly changed. So many of our artists and arts organizations were quick to move performances, shows, and even arts education programs online for the public to experience them virtually. Museums have opened their doors to virtual tours and visits, artists are creating and selling their work online, and we’re seeing unique ways in which the arts are able to be experienced and enjoyed from home. I like to say that our doors are closed, but our hearts are open.

We’re also focused on research and assessing how we can continue to support the arts community in this moment in time and moving into the future. We now know that the timeline of closures has been extended and we want to go back and update our initial research. We will use this information to understand how best we can continue to move forward. This will help us make meaningful decisions to support our artistic community.

Q.  What are your biggest concerns right now?

A.  I’m most concerned about the impact this is having on people’s health and safety, but also the health and safety of our community. Although we are very resilient, this will have a long-term effect on us. I also worry about how everyone is navigating through this unprecedented time – everything from financial, economic, operations, and, most importantly, navigating the human impact this is having on us all. I am optimistic based on the level of support that exists in this community and the fact that artists and arts organizations are resilient and innovative. I believe that they will adapt and will overcome this challenge. Our arts organizations and artists will continue to create, which speaks to the heart and soul of who they are and how devoted they are to their mission.

Q.  How are you taking care of yourself, your staff, and your clients?

A. We’re hoping and coping despite the distance that exists right now. We’re solving problems in real time. Our staff has daily connection points that are critical, and I have touchpoints with our leadership team throughout the day. Everything is happening so quickly, but we’re making the time to connect and reflect so that we can help each other navigate through this difficult time. We are also participating in webinars, sharing best practices and resources, and we created a Facebook forum for our artists and arts organizations to share and ask questions. 

Personally, I have my dog (black lab named Ellie), who sits by my side in my home office. There’s a sweetness and calmness to her presence. I’m trying to be consistent with walking each day and enjoying the fresh air. I’m also so thankful to my family. We reflect every day on how grateful we are that we have a safe place to be and that we are together. We’re playing games, going for walks, and just living. For spring break, because we couldn’t travel as planned, we each picked a different country and every night we focused on that place. We prepared meals, listened to music, and consumed their culture – and those moments have been beautiful and important.

Q. What is your biggest need right now and how can people support your organization?

A.  The number one thing is that everyone stays in and does their part to stay healthy. The other thing is to understand how fragile this situation is and to consider supporting the artists and organizations that you care about in a meaningful way. If you were impacted through a cancelled performance, consider donating back your tickets to the organization. Invest in the future by purchasing a membership, subscription, tickets, 2020-21 season pass, or even gift cards. There are simple ways to help and support artists. And we would say the exact same for our friends and colleagues that have restaurants and bars – buy now and use later. People can also contribute to the Emergency Relief Fund through the website IndyKeepsCreating.org – 100% of that money goes back to artists and arts organizations.

Q.  What are you reading, watching, listening to, or doing to get through this?

A.  I’m consuming all of the local arts content that is available online. I’m tuning into virtual performances and shows, staying connected with local artists through social media, and experiencing all that our incredibly talented arts community has to offer. I’m amazed by the innovation, generosity and heart of the artists. They are giving it their all and doing so much to make art available to the community. 

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