Artists and musicians are surviving the pandemic with education-focused scholarships

PASADENA, Calif. — Artists across the country have struggled to find consistent work since the pandemic began, but innovative efforts are being made to keep art of all kinds alive. A non-profit organization helps artists across the country earn a living and pass their talents on to the next generation.

Hip hop artist Jason Chu is happy to be part of this effort.

“Hip hop has always been about communities on the fringes, refocusing the narrative on themselves,” said rapper Jason Chu.

Throughout his life and career, Chu often found himself on the fringes.

“Growing up as a Chinese-American kid in Delaware, I never thought I could do music professionally because, I mean, A, I was from Delaware. Few people do that from Delaware, and B, definitely racially.

However, his music paved the way to stand out and champion his community. Her work is about identity, equity and understanding.

“If you had said to me, ‘Yo, man, you’re going to have a career as an Asian-American rapper who talks about history, who talks about society, who talks about systemic inequality,’ I would have been like, ‘Man , it’s crazy!’ It’s always been very difficult to sustainably live from art,” Chu said.

He made a career out of traveling the country performing and visiting colleges to speak about the message of his music.

“My parents taught me: you are here for a reason, you are here to make the world a better place. And I felt like music was actually a place where I could touch the world.

When the pandemic silenced stages across the country, Chu and artists across the country quickly found themselves out of work.

Chu said the pandemic was difficult at first, but then it turned into a huge opportunity.

“We were able to do a lot of virtual concerts, do a lot of virtual workshops,” he said.

His message of acceptance has become more important than ever with the rise of anti-Asian violence across the country.

“Being able to quickly pivot to this medium has allowed me to connect more with my audience.”

But Chu said these temporary solutions of online concerts and other events, once the only safe option, are permanently changing the arts industry as we know it.

“It’s a generational change. We haven’t seen anything like it in our lifetime. If you’re on Broadway, if you’re, you know, on film sets, there are so many logistical challenges right now. We cannot depend on legacy frameworks to connect with our audience. We have to go find our audience where they are,” Chu said.

Artists at Work helps find those audiences. From poets to painters to musicians, the nonprofit pays artists’ salaries to support creatives during the pandemic, and in return, artists give back and invest in arts education.

“In many ways, he supports people and voices speaking out in their communities in ways that inspire and uplift. Really, the goal is to help build a vision of what life and community can look like.

For Chu, that means mentoring up-and-coming artists and creating educational projects with nonprofits like the Japanese-American Museum and Advancing Justice.

“I’m super excited to create art in collaboration with them. My mission with my music has always been to speak of hope and healing in a broken world,” he said.

Chu said it will take art to keep hope alive in this country and specifically art created by voices from the margins.

“Any major cultural change was always accompanied by artistic creation,” Chu said. “You look at the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, the Asian-American movement, it’s always been accompanied by new art.

He sees the change brought by the pandemic as the next moment when creativity is reborn.

“Art has a profound possibility of showing people a different world. Whether we build it or not is another matter. But I think art can help people see that something beyond what they see right now is possible.”

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