The economy may have reopened, but musicians and cultural institutions are still struggling from 18 months of COVID-19 shutdowns and the lingering presence of the delta variant. The latter is the reason why Hardly Strictly Bluegrass decided to host its Oct. 1–3 festival online this year, with a lineup that stars Mavis Staples, Ani DiFranco, Meklit, Ambrose Akinmusire and Bachelor.
Today, in its ongoing efforts to give back to the musicians and venues that keep roots music going, Hardly Strictly announced a new round of philanthropic funding. The foundation behind the festival will disburse $1 million among three groups: the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which has been distributing emergency funding to artists and workers during the pandemic; East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative’s Esther’s Orbit Room Cultural Revival Project, which seeks to restore the historic West Oakland blues venue; and the Tenderloin Museum’s “Sounds of the Tenderloin” project.
With Hardly Strictly's funding, Sweet Relief will be able to provide hundreds of grants to musicians and music workers. Residents of the Bay Area and New Orleans are eligible to apply for up to $1,000 in assistance with rent, bills, medication and other life essentials. The organization suggests submitting by Oct. 31.
The Esther’s Orbit Room grant will help fund East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative’s efforts to revitalize the renowned venue into a performance space with a cafe and artist housing. And the grant for the Tenderloin Museum's “Sounds of the Tenderloin” will book small-scale live performances throughout the San Francisco neighborhood, which once had thriving jazz, swing, rock and folk scenes.
This latest philanthropic effort follows Hardly Strictly’s $3 million dollar investment in local music venues and artist relief efforts in 2020.