A    LETTER    FROM    OUR    PRESIDENT

 

 

 

This time we are living in is something else.

I write each word knowing by the time I hit send even more will have changed. More of us will have been infected in some way by COVID-19, by fear of it, mild cases of it, or most devastatingly by extreme cases. More places where we work, play and go to school will have shut down across the world as we fight to contain this fast-moving virus.

I am writing to you from inside of my home, in the office I’ve set up for myself here, surrounded by framed images of my ancestors, my family, my loved ones. I am instant messaging with staff on a new system we are trying to use. I’ve had countless clunky conference calls this past week where we all have to learn how to enter the traffic of a virtual space where you cannot see each other signal we are ready to contribute and so many rush in at once, apologize then retreat.

I have set up a schedule for my daughter as Chicago Public Schools are closing. It includes baking, math, music, science projects, documentary films (both making and watching), reading and recess. I’ve watched people around the world in quarantine sing across balconies to each other in solidarity. I’ve called and texted and emailed with friends and loved ones, sending love notes across wires to all asking we stay in contact, we stay connected. And as of last week, I’ve asked the Field staff to work offsite and protect themselves until we have a handle on this rapidly spreading virus.

Here are a few things we at Field do know for certain.

    • Many of us cannot work from home, cannot get paid sick time, cannot shelter in place. And for those of us who cannot, all of us must fight to change this.
    • Many of us do not have access to technology to transition seamlessly to virtual meetings. And for those of us who cannot, we must adjust our ways of communicating and outreach. Also some firms, like Fortium Partners, are offering pro-bono tech calls to assess what is needed and try to be helpful during this outbreak. To schedule please visit this site.
    • Many of us are scrambling to adjust to canceling every well laid plan that was to happen in the coming months. This means that the ways our partners had planned to help others have been canceled. Ways of raising critical funds to cover budgets for the next year have been canceled. The ability of local media organizations to report on the news and give real facts is in jeopardy. The overflow of need from canceled schools and health realities is a deluge facing community organizations. Shuttered arts organizations with no programs have left artists and institutions devastated.

Hold tight.

Hold tight.

Hold tight.

If our ancestors and our history have taught us anything, it’s that in the face of unimaginable struggle comes a symphony of superhuman connectivity and response. Our better selves rise and stretch across the chasm not because we have to, but because it is in fact what saves each of us—not only one by one—but collectively.

And here’s what I know. The Chicago community—from nonprofits to foundations to business to media outlets—have been talking about equity for the past few years. That wasn’t a futile exercise. That was training for this moment. We WILL get through this. We WILL solve this together. We WILL not create top down solutions, but we WILL rise as a city to continue to connect, share resources and power and ideas now more than ever.

As needs pour in from everywhere—help guide what is pressing and what is long term. A survey will come to you in the coming days from Forefront. Fill it in to indicate what you need. If you are an arts organization, fill out this one from Arts Alliance Illinois as well.

Call/email us at Field and others within the philanthropic space. Our program officers are in constant dialogue with many of you, with others in philanthropy and are here. Reach out to us and let us know what you need and how we can help.

Many of those clunky conference calls resulted in new funds that are being created as we speak. Look for an announcement Monday spearheaded by the Chicago Community Trust and the United Way to learn more about one such fund aimed at helping in this moment.

And keep in mind, there are also conversations about the need to remove expectations on grant reports,  shift deadlines, make grants unrestricted if not already and deepen existing support to nonprofits. This is while foundation endowments are in a tailspin.

Hold tight.

Hold each other tight.

And finally, for those of us sheltering in place, I hope that in this time of expansive pause, you DO NOT try to replicate our busy, meeting-filled lives—but find something new in the silence and shelter. No all- day virtual meetings. No four-hour video calls while trying to replicate a school day in your home. This moment is changing us.

And so, let us be changed.

May we find time in this pause to breathe. To feel the anxiety and find the solution for us that works this day. May we watch the accordionist from our own balcony or be the singer across the alleys and backyards. May we be rooted in self and family and stay connected to those we love across this beautiful, complicated planet.

And when we return, and we will return, may the silence have brought a new peace, a deeper connection to self, nature and each other.

Holding tight with each of you across space and time.

Angelique Power, President
The Field Foundation