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Photo By E. Wilde: US Senator Ben Ray Luján attending the re- dedication of the Veterans Memorial Park in Questa, NM in May 2021

Creative Workers Among the Hardest Hit by COVID-19 Pandemic

US Senator Ben Ray Luján led the way in introducing the Creative Economy Revitalization Act (CERA), legislation to help bolster the creative economy through workforce grants to employ artists and writers to create publicly available art. US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) are co-sponsors of the legislation, and US Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM) introduced companion legislation in the US House of Representatives.

The creative economy was among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in 62% of creative workers (more than 2 million Americans) experiencing unemployment. The arts and cultural sector lost an estimated $15.2 billion due to the pandemic.

The Creative Economy Revitalization Act proposes to:

Get creative workers back into jobs by creating a competitive workforce grants program within the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; Administer grants to eligible government, non-profit, and for-profit organizations, as well as state and local workforce boards through the Department of Labor, in coordination with the National Endowment for the Arts; Require that grantees create art that is public and accessible to the public, such as free concert series, large-scale murals, photography exhibits, published stories, or dance performances.

“New Mexico’s vibrant creative economy is a critical economic driver for our state… It’s essential that Congress provide support and relief to this important industry,” said Senator Luján. “This legislation will put New Mexico artists back to work and fuel the creative economy across the country.”

“I grew up with musicos and poetas coming in and out of our family home. Through art, I gained pride in my identity and an understanding and appreciation for other cultures… I’m inspired by the cultural legacy we inherited from the WPA. Similarly, this pandemic has devastated our creative workers and we must engage them to create art that unites and brings joy to our communities. We will build back beautifully,” said US Representative Teresa Leger Fernández
In September, the US Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution in support of the Creative Economy Revitalization Act. More than 175 organizations endorsed the legislation, including the Freelancers Union, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, City of Albuquerque Department of Arts & Culture, Americans for the Arts, Authors Guild, American Planning Association, Arts Workers United, National Alliance of Community and Economic Development Agencies, US Department of Arts and Culture, National Writers Union, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Actors’ Equity Association, and the Department for Professional Employees/AFL-CIO.

“Americans for the Arts, in partnership with the nation’s 4,500 local arts agencies, 56 state arts agencies, 5.2 million creative workers and the state arts alliances that advocate for them, endorses the Creative Economy Revitalization Act to invest in the creative economy. Supporting creative workers makes strong business sense as the arts drive economic and community transformation in American cities and towns. The Arts are a national asset, and our country thrives because artists and creative workers are a part of the collective workforce helping our citizens recover and grow from the trauma of COVID-19 and racial inequity, restart stalled local economies, and reimagine our shared way forward,” said Nolen V. Bivens, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts.

“Through art, I gained pride in my identity and an understanding and appreciation for other cultures…”

— US Rep. Teresa Leger-Fernãndez