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Artist + Beneficiary Jessie Hemmons

A Vision for an Artists Safety Net(work)

Feb 1, 2017 | Feature, Makers + Matters

By Cornelia Carey, Executive Director, CERF+

In today’s world, we all need a good safety net – and artists are no exception. As the Executive Director of CERF+ for more than 20 years, I’ve met hundreds of artists working in craft disciplines in need of such support. Whether it’s for an emergency or long-term career stability, the needs of these artists have some common ingredients that give us all an opportunity to create a strong safety net dedicated to their future well-being:

Providing a safety net for artists provides a safety net for our American cultural legacy. Art is America’s commonwealth and artists are its most precious assets. When we look out for artists at all stages of their careers, we protect the foundation of our cultural history for the future.

There is a growing need for a safety net everywhere. From economic instability, to climate change and infrastructure challenges, we all feel the need for more support in this 21st Century. The good news is that we have an opportunity to build from community foundations. By addressing these challenges for artists, we can pave the way for one segment of our society to thrive. That’s our focus at CERF+, but we are part of an ever-growing number of communities looking out for each other and providing tangible support for people to build strong and safe lives together.

Metalsmith + Beneficiary Aran Galligan

Studio artists, in particular, have unique needs to sustain their work, their careers and even themselves. These potters, fiber artists, furniture makers, glassblowers and others like them often work alone or in small studios. They rely on the security of their studios, tools, supplies and their very health for their livelihoods. And they are often working without broad public recognition and the financial stability that comes with it. Addressing this specific vulnerability is why CERF+ was started to begin with – originally as a mutual-aid society – and is why we have grown to include more resources and programs for the full career of these artists when they aren’t in an emergency. Expanding beyond emergencies also provides resources that can help other types of artists too. The “plus” part of our name represents that type of work we do every day –and is the focus of our strategic direction for the future.


A true “Artists Safety Net” must be broad to be effective. It needs “all hands on deck” to provide for all types of experiences in the lives of working artists. It requires vision, expertise and resources to make an impact.

We have an opportunity to grow that safety net now. People who care about art, artists and their legacies can come together to make a strong network dedicated to their sustainable (and thriving) careers. At CERF+, we see an opportunity to help facilitate the growth of such a network. By connecting individuals and working with groups that have their own existing networks, we can extend the reach of support and weave an expansive “Artists Safety Net.”

Artist + Beneficiary Rashida Ferdinand lived through Hurricane Katrina


To pave the way for this vision, we are excited to launch our latest strategy at CERF+. Our new website is designed to provide immediate, tangible support for artists at all stages of their careers – and serve as a platform for developing a strong Artists Safety Net through stories, resources and opportunities for partners. Beyond the digital, we are dedicating more resources to expanding our outreach to artist support communities to build a network and collaborate to serve common missions. Through shared-expertise and resources, we hope to reach more artists across the country, in remote locations and in underserved populations.

I believe in the importance of the people who make the art that is our cultural legacy here in America. They carry our dynamic values, cultural identities and aesthetics in their work. Supporting their thriving careers is one critical step we can take to assure their longevity. I hope you’ll join me in the doing all we can to create an Artists Safety Net(work), together.

Visit these new areas on our site to see how you can be part of the Artists Safety Net:

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