INDIANAPOLIS — Art has been a lifeline for many, throughout the isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic. Now, the Arts Council of Indianapolis is introducing a new way to support the mental health of local artists.
The Council’s Keep Indy Creating Fund is expanding to more relief services. Announced Wednesday, the new funding will provide resources that one artist says is desperately needed in the arts community.
Wug Laku’s art illuminated Indianapolis for years. Along with his personal artwork, he leaves a legacy of support for new artists growth.
“I made connection with Wug Laku, here in this building, he let me use a corner of his work bench to finish my project for Elegant Funk and when I came in the door, I never left,” Nancy Lee, an artisan jeweler and metalsmith said.
Lee has been creating and working out of the Circle City Industrial Complex in downtown Indianapolis since 2008, after Laku opened up his space to her.
The two artists fell in love but an unaddressed mental health illness led to Laku’s death at the age of 63.
“He committed suicide," Lee remembers. “For him, I know there was a lot of shame around it, he was a very proud person, he never wanted to ask for help but he needed it desperately.”
Laku left a small fund for the Arts Council of Indianapolis, which will now be put to use in his honor.
“Wug was struggling, and these provisions were not there for him so we want to make sure in his name that they are for other artists that are struggling right now,” Shannon Linker, Vice President of Artist Services and Engagement at the Arts Council of Indianapolis said.
Central Indiana is home to more than 30,000 independent artists and cultural workers. The Arts Council of Indianapolis has been supporting local artists throughout the pandemic.
“Now that things have opened up a little bit, artists have done everything that they can do to support and inspire the community. Now it’s obvious that they need support themselves,” Linker explained.
The Arts Council has opened 100 grant opportunities for local artists who have expressed a need for mental health support services.
The Wug Laku Mental Health & Wellness Grants range from $250 to $750 for artists who are experiencing social and emotional challenges but do not have the money themselves to get treatment.
“That can be one-on-one therapy, that can be group therapy, that can be yoga, mindfulness meditation, really just whatever they feel would support them at the time,” Linker said. “So the Arts Council and our funders are really looking to the artists to tell us what would be the best support for them.”
The funding for this new round of grants comes from a collaboration of community partners over the past year as well as Laku’s final contribution to the art community that he helped to build.
“This is Wug's gift and the Arts Council’s gift to artists in some assistance,” Lee said. “I felt completely powerless to help him, so yes this is going to be an amazing program and if we could have had something like this, who knows, who knows.”
Along with the financial support in Wug Laku’s grant, the Arts Council will be offering resources to help connect artists with available therapists. The Council will also be launching an awareness campaign with local well-known artists to reduce the stigma of seeking that help.
The Arts Council of Indianapolis is also providing a grant to help artists restart their creative spaces through the Artist Restart Grants. There are 175 grants available at $1,000 each. It will provide assistance to artists who are working to restart their creative practices, by helping cover the cost of tools and supplies, studio rentals, rehearsal spaces, submission fees or other work-related costs.
Both the Wug Laku Mental Health & Wellness Grants and the Artist Restart Grants are available to apply for until August 22, 2021. The applications will be reviewed weekly.
More information on The Arts Council of Indianapolis’ Keep Indy Creating Fund: https://indykeepscreating.org/.
Learn more about artist Wug Laku and his lasting legacy: https://indykeepscreating.org/about-wug-laku/.