Updates from Our Executive Director Regarding COVID-19

March 24, 2020 By the-arts-of-life

March 27, 2020: I hope everyone continues to be safe and healthy as we respect the stay at home order and continue practicing social distancing when we do go into the community. These are unprecedented times, and things are changing as we learn more and share our experiences with one another. I feel lucky to have the support network and resources I have within Chicago’s great cultural landscape.  

At Arts of Life, we’ve spent this first few weeks making sure our artists have what they need to keep safe and sane. As is true of most people, this change in schedule and secure in place order is very stressful for our artists. We’ve activated a call tree to ensure that everyone we support is called and checked in with at least two times a week. We are working with families and providers to understand what technologies are available to improve the connection we have with people while we are staying at home. 

This week has been critical as we awaited federal and state governments’ response to the nonprofit art and disability sectors. Our advocates have worked tirelessly to ensure our artists and their direct care professionals, the front line workers, were included in any measure taken in response to COVID-19. An exceptional thank you goes out to everyone, State and local officials, advocates, families, and providers, for working long hours and making sure our sector survives this crisis whole.  

Arts of Life is 100% committed to our staff. Everyone is either working remotely or has moved over to one of our residential partners to support their efforts as people stay at home. Our team is our greatest asset, and we will continue to pay them at their regular rate, so they are there to welcome our artists back into our community. We’ve been using the workplace app and have started a weekly social for two hours using our zoom platform. My team is being cautiously optimistic and remain in good spirits this week.  

What we’ve learned from the final decisions that have gone out from all of the IDD waivers is that the state will reimburse us for anyone living in a CILA based on our previous billings. This is a strong statement from Director Stark in support of keeping programs working, but it isn’t enough. Every day that we are closed, we lose 40% of our income through the home-based waiver and private pay artists. On top of this, we’ve canceled all programming for our last quarter and into the next fiscal year.  

We are hoping to open soon but anticipate Dir. Stark will extend the closing of CDS to keep our artists safe. In response to this potential, we are working to rebuild our program so that our community can work together virtually by:

  • Expanding our zoom account to include all of our staff and upgrade it to allow webinars.  
  • Applying for grants to get Ipads in the hands of our artists who don’t have technology in their homes.  
  • Creating video content and developing a schedule to engage every artist in their practice during this crisis.  
  • Purchasing art-making kits to be delivered as soon as possible.  

I know all of you already know the great team of employees we have at Arts of Life, but now more than ever, they’ve shown their creative problem solving, collaboration, and community spirit throughout these few weeks. I encourage you to reach out to them directly to show your support and give them some good vibes! 

March 24, 2020: Dear Valued Arts of Life Community Members,

Because of the severity of concern and unconventional nature of the current health crisis, I wanted to reach out to our community directly with updates on how we at Arts of Life are managing the safety of our artists and staff during this time. 

We believe that social distancing is critical at this time and continue to take steps to keep all members of our community safe.  The Department of Human Services, Developmental Disabilities Division, is taking extra precautions and are requiring all Day Service organizations close through April 15th. We agree with DHS and appreciate their leadership during this very challenging time.

Please keep in touch through social media for updates on our gallery programming and events. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach contact me directly at dfisher@artsoflife.org or 312-203-0210. We look forward to seeing everyone in a month.

To stay informed from the Illinois Department of Public Health, please visit this site:  http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/diseases-a-z-list/coronavirus

Stay safe and healthy!

Denise Fisher
Executive Director, Arts of Life