ART 321 has announced that they are partnering with the Wyoming Women's Business Center to offer a 'Holiday Joy Fund' to artists across Wyoming. These are temporary relief funds that artists can apply for that can help with Christmas present shopping, rent, or just every day bills in general.

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"In early 2020,, ART 321 established an emergency relief fund," said Tyler Cessor, Executive Director of ART 321. "We were actually the first in the state to offer direct relief to artists. It was just a small amount, between $50 and $100 but it was like, within 24 hours, if you needed help with food or your utility bill or rent, or something; we tried to get that out really quick."

In order to raise the money for that specific fund, ART 321 hosted the premiere of 'Make Art Wyoming,' a short documentary from filmmaker Anthony Stengel. The gallery raised enough money to be able to offer temporary, direct relief to artists that were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Since that time, needs have changed and we haven't depleted that fund yet," Cessor noted. "I had an artist that came in a couple weeks ago that was just really down and was talking about lost income and not being able to provide for their family. There was a fear of how the next couple of months were going to go. So I was just like, 'We have this fund, let's repurpose it a little bit.'"

Cessor reached out to the Wyoming Women's Business Center to come up with an idea.

"A while ago, we partnered with the Wyoming Women's Business Center," he said. "They run what's called 'Works of Women Artists in Wyoming. They do work to see artists as part of small business funding. And that's kind of our initiative, between Wendy Fanning and I; to advocate for artists to be classified as small business owners. That way, they can access the same funding opportunities."

So when Cessor and Fanning hung up the phone, they decided to move forward with the 'Holiday Joy Fund.'  Though the idea came about from ART 321 and the Wyoming Women's Business Center, it's open for any individual or business who would like to donate funds to help local artists.

"I certainly invite anyone else who wants to contribute to this fund," Cessor said. "We don't have any ownership over it. It's not something that's about us. It's really just, like, how do we put more money in artists' pockets so that they can keep creating this beautiful world that we live in."

ART 321 announced the Holiday Joy Fund on Thursday and already had four artists come forward. The funds offer $50-$100 for single artists, and $50-$150 for artists with children.

"Three of the four who came in have kids," Cessor said. "And the funds are going to different things for the holiday, but also just to practical things, like supplies or other things to help them make or sell art and kind of support themselves."

ART 321 has made it a priority this year to not only showcase artists and their art, but to empower artists as well.

"This is a very tangible thing we can do for artists," Cessor said. "We can see the benefit. We do a lot of work that is very direct service, like selling the work of Wyoming artists, putting on workshops revolved around the interests of specific artists. But this is a very tangible thing. With the Holiday Joy Fund, I get to see in their face that this individual has been influenced. We're trying to create space for more opportunities in the community and the sphere that we're operating in allows us to think about how we're influencing a broader community of creativity."

Currently, any Wyoming artists are welcome to apply for the funds. For those who wish to donate to the project, they can visit the ART 321 Donate Page. Or, if individuals want to purchase some art, ART 321 is hosting their Holiday Art Market on Saturday, December 4, beginning at 10am.

Per their Facebook Events page:

"Shop local this holiday season with ART 321’s Holiday Art Market. Find the perfect gift for everyone on your list all while supporting local artists. Celebrate the season with music, holiday art activities & hot cocoa bar for the kids or Drinks by Backwards Distillery for the adults... and surprise guest appearance! Enjoy the sounds of the season with Opera Wyoming from 10:30- Noon and Feel merry and bright with Chad Lore from 4-6pm. This year we will be celebrating the holidays in our newly renovated basement, new space with the same holiday feel!"

To apply for the Holiday Joy Fund, visit this website.

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