Organization helping struggling artists during the pandemic

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Artists have been struggling during the pandemic.

Many of the big public markets they rely on to make money have been closed.

Claude Smith, who is with 516 Arts, is one of many that have been working to support artists during the pandemic.

"If artists lose the opportunity to make and create then, in a sense, we’re losing culture," he said.

516 Arts typically helps to grow the art community, but for the past year, the organization has been trying to help the community survive with the Fulcrum Fund.

"Directly supporting the individuals, some might not be in our community directly, but they’re still kind of family, I guess you could say," Smith said. "Artists in New Mexico are people we care deeply about."

Funded mainly by private art foundations, they say the impact on Native American artists cannot be overstated.

"It’s almost an un-enumerated amount in-terms of the value. The true value." Smith said. "I’m not talking about the money value. I’m talking about the true value."

Roger Fragua, a board member at 516 Arts, said they have filled a need.

"When the mother’s there with no food in the cupboard – what does it mean to have that check come to them – and then that sense of resurgence and confidence that we will get through this," Fragua said. "It’s hard to put a value to that."

Collectively, they’ve distributed over $250,000 to more than 200 artists in New Mexico.

"I hope to God we don’t go back to normal," Fragua said. "I hope that we take this opportunity to not go back to normal. To be better to each other. To be better human beings. Be more compassionate, to be kinder."