This new emergency fund helps Pittsburgh artists in hard times

It’s open to all artists — from musicians to poets to dancers and everyone in between.

Nathan Zoob in action, alongside some of the new equipment he purchased through the grant.

Nathan Zoob in action, alongside some of the new equipment he purchased through the grant.

At left: Photo by Long Hong / At right: Photo by Nathan Zoob
Rossilynne Culgan

When someone broke into Lawrenceville musician Nathan Zoob’s car and stole his guitar equipment earlier this year, it could have stalled his practice by six months.

For the acoustic and electric guitarist, his stolen pedal bag, full of specialized tools and guitar pedals worth $1,300, is key to his work. Zoob said it would have taken months to save up to re-buy the equipment.

So he applied for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council’s Emergency Fund for Artists and became the first artist to receive financial assistance through the program, the arts council announced yesterday.

The fund, launched in 2018, provides $300-$1,000 grants for artists weathering career-threatening situations, such as a fire, flood, accident, or theft. It’s funded through the Hillman Foundation.

Zoob received $1,000 and has already replaced his equipment.

Artists are in “a tenuous position,” and this fund provides what Zoob describes as “a safety net” for those who don’t have insurance. He is now covering his equipment with renter’s insurance.

“I’m one example of who this fund could assist,” Zoob told The Incline. “I think what is so amazing about it and so impressive is how many people it could help in different situations.”

A native of New York City, Zoob plays with several bands including Wreck Loose, Mark Dignam and the House of Song, Paul Luc, Chet Vincent and Biirdwatcher. He also has a solo project called Zoob and is currently working on a new album.

How does the fund work?

Funds are available on an as-needed basis, the arts council said. An advisory committee of skilled professionals in emergency response, health, social services, and the arts anonymously reviews each application.

How do artists apply for the fund?

Any Pittsburgh artist can apply for funding with this form. Artists from all disciplines (makers, musicians, actors, writers, poets, performers, dancers) and all backgrounds (emerging to established, digital or analog, self-taught or classically trained) are welcome to apply.

Keep in mind that the fund does not consider requests for medical, capital improvements, projects, or programming. Instead, the arts council encourages artists to have medical, business, and property insurance and can assist in identifying appropriate resources.

Why does the emergency fund matter?

Replacing materials, equipment, or instruments can be “costly and life-changing for working artists,” the arts council said.