What began as the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) today also encompasses Artists’ Emergency Resources (the “+” in CERF+). The non-profit has spent a quarter century supporting craft artists by coming to their aid in times of need with financial assistance, adding in an education program in preparedness for all artists in more recent years. The group functions as an “arts responder,” offering loans and grants, educational materials, and even assistance in the brokering of services like booth fee wavers and donations of tools or supplies.
“If art is America’s common wealth, artists are its most precious asset.” It’s a statement of inspiration made by CERF+ that reflects the organization’s passion for arts and crafts as well as its mission to protect the artists who keep this world beautiful through their creations.
CERF+ was initiated by a group of craft artists and show producers who were concerned over “the lack of a safety-net for professional craft artists when personal or natural disasters strike.” Led by Carol Sedestrom Ross, then president of American Craft Enterprises, and glassblower Josh Simpson, the founders took the generosity they had witnessed at fairs, when exhibitors would literally “pass the hat” to raise funds for fellow artisans in need, and expanded on it, formally laying the groundwork for the powerful non-profit we see today.
It’s important to note this is not simply a group who aids in recovery; CERF+ also is very intent on “helping artists become more proactive in the approach to emergencies.” The more prepared one is, perhaps the less damage will be done.
The programs and initiatives cover all areas of an artist's business including emergency relief, emergency preparedness and recovery resources, emergency preparedness educational programs, the Artist Preparedness Campaign, National Coalition for Arts Preparedness & Emergency Response, and research into the needs and status of working artists.
CERF+ in Action
In the early days, CERF loans ranged between $250 and $500. Today, the grants for assistance have risen to $2,500 and loans have reached as high as $8,000. In total, the organization has provided more than $1 million in financial assistance to professional craft artists, not to mention an additional $250,000 in donated services over the years.
For those in need of relief, CERF+ is a bright light in the often-confusing, post-disaster recovery process. The group has stepped in time and again to provide guidance and assistance to craft artists like Rusty Wolfe whose Nashville studio was under 10 feet of water, that left damaged artwork, supplies, tools, and machinery in its wake, when the city flooded in 2010; and to Jon Brooks, whose furniture-making studio in New Hampshire was as much a work of art as the pieces crafted in it until it was consumed by fire early one morning.
Hard Work Paying Off
One need only review a few of the testimonials of artists and craftsmen on the CERF+ website to see what an impact the organization has had on its members. People who thought their livelihoods were forever changed have found in CERF+ support that helped them to recover and move on.
Beyond grateful members, however, CERF+ also has earned the respect of the craft community at large. For its “unique contribution to the crafts community,” the organization received in 2009 the annual Leadership Award from the Craft Organization Development Association.
Visit the CERF+ website for more on the organization and to find out how you can get involved.