In the wake of the Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland, Calif., the art collective Meow Wolf has started a $100,000 assistance fund to help DIY arts and music venues across the globe. Applications are available here (deadline March 15).
The press release states that the assistance (maximum of $10,000 per award) can take the form of infrastructure improvements, rent relief, materials and equipment and other needs as identified by the applicants. Additionally, Meow Wolf can draw on their professional expertise to offer free consultation and support regarding legal issues, building codes and organizational structure improvements.
According to the press release, Meow Wolf began in 2008 as a DIY space in Santa Fe, New Mexico. On March 17, 2016, they opened the doors to their first permanent art exhibition, The House of Eternal Return. This venture, which they are operating at a profit, would not have been possible without the unprecedented help of George R.R. Martin, who purchased and renovated the building they now occupy. They also credit the local DIY scene.
The press release stated, “We were hurt by the tragedy in Oakland. We collaborated with some of the people who were lost in the fire. Among them was Chelsea Faith Dolan, who made music under the name Cherushii. She played our 2015 New Year’s party and her music co-produced with David Last is a part of our permanent exhibition.”
Meow Wolf decided to expand beyond the scene because as Eric Carter-Spurio states, “We come from a broad community of artists who face similar challenges. This is not about geographical location, it is about the DIY culture and community.”
The incident in Oakland made Meow Wolf realize that DIY venues abroad face similar problems, according to the press release. Rising rent and a lack of fruitful economic opportunities for artists have made such spaces more difficult to run than ever before. Coupled with the economic problems, there has never been more pressure to homogenize, for artists to compromise themselves into bland, cookie-cutter modes of existing.
According to the press release, if such trends are allowed to continue DIY spaces will suffer, along with the communities that depend on them for local, unique creative experiences. DIY spaces contribute to the cultural health of their communities and they must thrive.