How California’s Creatives Are Fighting the Pandemic

The foundations, artists, foodies and entrepreneurs launching funds and refocusing on COVID-19 relief efforts



Months into the COVID-19 pandemic in California, the state’s leading foundations, homegrown businesses and civic-minded creatives are joining the fight. Venerable organizations and startups are offering relief in the form of recovery grants, PPE (including masks and protective garments) and ingenious new take-away programs to aid those in need. Here are the latest individuals, groups, and institutions joining the fight to flatten the curve.


THE GETTY CENTER. Photo by J. Paul Getty Trust.


Perched on a hilltop in the Santa Monica mountains, the Richard Meier-designed J. Paul Getty Center is something of an artistic beacon of hope for Los Angeles, a designation that’s only intensifying now that its Trust is initiating a $10 million LA Arts COVID-19 Relief Fund. The new effort is aimed at supporting Los Angeles-based nonprofit museums and visual arts organizations that have been shuttered for the past few months due to the pandemic. Getty Foundation Director Joan Weinstein says it may mean the difference between reopening and permanent closure for a host of the city’s most creative innovators.

“Small and midsize nonprofits that often operate without endowment funds or cash reserves are such important anchors in our diverse communities, providing critical access to arts and arts education, often for underserved communities,” Weinstein notes. Administered by the California Community Foundation, the fund will provide both emergency operating support and recovery grants. “We hope these grants will also give these art nonprofits a little breathing room to think about how they can reopen, restructure, and collaborate,” she adds.

The Getty Trust is also playing a key role in a group effort to support L.A. artists struggling amid gallery and art fair closures and the retraction of the gig economy through the Relief Fund for L.A. County Visual Artists, also in partnership with the California Community Foundation. Joining this crucial new effort are local artist-endowed organizations, including the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, the Sam Francis Foundation, and the Shepard and Amanda Fairey Foundation. The fund is set to distribute $655,000 to county residents whose practice includes such mediums as painting, printmaking, ceramics, drawing, illustration, sculpture, video, new media, textiles, mural and public art, photography, sound, performance or installation art. “Los Angeles is now a leading city for the visual arts, recognized internationally,” Weinstein says. “You can’t have the arts without artists!”

Musicians are also pitching in to help at-risk communities. Elton John, whose Foundation has been working to eradicate AIDS since 1992, is establishing a COVID-19 Emergency Fund. The philanthropic singer and composer took to Twitter to announce $1 million in aid for frontline partners responding to coronavirus effects on HIV care for the most marginalized. Twitter and Square founder Jack Dorsey, who has already set aside $100,000 for coronavirus relief, recently agreed to match the Foundation’s pledge. Also, Jay-Z and Meek Mill’s REFORM Alliance supporting justice reform, is donating more than 130,000 surgical masks to frontline workers, officers and inmates at correctional facilities.


[STATEMADE] for COVID-19 aid in partnership with CORE.


Performing artist Halsey, who lives in the Hollywood Hills, recently sent 100,000 three-ply face masks to L.A. area at-risk hospitals, including Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, Providence Saint Joseph, and USC Medical Center and also Cedars-Sinai. The singer captioned an Instagram snap documenting the donation with a personal message: “If you are on the front lines, my heart is with you.” Burbank-based Disney recently donated 1 million masks to communities in need and an additional $1 million in proceeds from the sale of reusable masks emblazoned with Marvel, Star Wars and Disney characters to MedShare, a nonprofit redistributing medical supplies to underserved communities.

MedMen is partnering with actor Sean Penn’s CORE, a nonprofit administering free COVID-19 tests in Oakland, Napa, Bakersfield and L.A. This month, the cannabis company will donate 10 percent of sales from its in-house cannabis line, [statemade], to CORE. Statemade’s range includes five effects, such as Max for energy and ZZZ for sleep, and its proceeds will bolster CORE’s current tally of 250,000 tests administered nationwide. Also in the cannabis space, actor and activist Jane Fonda is the newest Uncle Bud’s ambassador, and, to celebrate the partnership, the hemp and CBD brand is donating 1,000 hemp hand sanitizers to L.A. homeless outreach program Safe Place for Youth on her behalf.


Personal protection shield by APL.


Now that L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is requiring all residents to wear masks outdoors, APL shoes is giving away personal protection shields for an added layer of protection. Made from recyclable plastic, the face shields — an essential component of frontline employees’ personal protective equipment — can be continuously disinfected and reused, and APL is giving them away with each footwear purchase and also donating them to California’s healthcare workers.




Melrose Avenue’s John Elliott is donating 10 percent of each purchase to UCLA Health. His street-inspired casualwear’s spring collection includes such WFH staples as modern tie-dye patterned sweats, baggy corduroy shorts and nylon lounge pants for men and velvet maxi dresses and Bermuda shorts for women. Citizens of Humanity is partnering with the kooky L.A.-based design duo Haas Brothers on whimsical limited-edition cat-mouth masks for adults and children, with proceeds going to LA Family Housing. The denim brand also tapped sought-after L.A. tattoo artist Dr. Woo to create a needlework design on limited-edition washable masks in production alongside those manufactured and donated to frontline responders.

Online fashion marketplace Moda Operandi is splitting $100,000 in proceeds from recent sales between Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief, L.A.-based Baby2Baby, and A Common Thread, a fundraising initiative supporting the hard-hit American fashion community.




Even as restaurants and bars throughout the state remain largely shuttered, entertaining entrepreneurs are devising ways to aid those most affected by coronavirus shelter-in-place mandates. In addition to new delivery and take-away menus, West Hollywood’s Meditteranean-style Olivetta and Palisades Village’s The Draycott brasserie, both created by Matt and Marissa Hermer, are donating free meals to frontline medical workers, the in-need elderly and those unable to shop for themselves.


Lemon Lavender cocktail.


Sonoma-based aperitif startup Haus watched its direct-to-consumer orders skyrocket as coronavirus hit, but founders Woody and Helena Hambrecht quickly realized the profoundly different outcome facing restaurants and bars during lockdown. “As one of the few food and beverage companies lucky enough to be growing during COVID-19, we felt a responsibility to support those in our industry who were not faring so well,” Helena explains.

The couple immediately set to work developing the Restaurant Project, a line of Haus aperitifs inspired by menus at more than a dozen influential restaurants around the country, including L.A.’s Kismet, S.F.’s State Bird Provisions, Élephante in Santa Monica, and the Momofuku empire. Proceeds from each bottle go to its respective restaurant. Woody says Haus has already sent partners over $100,000.

“That feels significant anytime, but especially now when every dollar matters,” Woody says. “Every week we send the restaurants a check — the funds help our restaurant partners pay their staff, cover the bills, and ultimately keep their doors open.” Such innovative alliances may prove to be transformative. “We’re so glad we can quickly help to make a difference,” he adds.


Feature image: Getty Museum Courtyard. Photo by Alex Vertikoff/J. Paul Getty Trust.


May 21, 2020



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