Thursday, June 24, 2010

Le'Talk: An interview with Osgood Dogood Award recipient Bob Malos

By Juleana Enright

In pursuit of creative brilliance and for the sake of their work, many artists abandon “conventional” means of living, sacrificing material well-being to commit to artistic endeavors -- an act that often doesn't include a steady paycheck. So, what happens when tragedy strikes? A fire, a health emergency, or even something as seemingly minor as the crash of a laptop could be economically disastrous to an artist lacking the funds to afford anything more than the day's Ramen, let alone an unexpected cost. When the lifestyle of the “starving artist” becomes career threatening, who pays the bills?

Enter Bob Malos. As the first recipient of the Osgood Dogood Award for Transformational Community Leadership in the Arts, one could say theater artist/actor Bob Malos is the epitome of a do-good-er. In 2001, Malos conceived a plan of action designed to give back to the art's community. Endowed by the Springboard for the Arts, Malos' vision became the Emergency Relief Fund – a program that funds as much as $500 to cover unexpected expenses befalling artists. Since its inception, the program has allocated over $40,000 in relief funds to 114 artists. Named after musician, longtime Springboard for the Arts' Program Director and passionate arts advocate, Chris Osgood, the award will be given out annually to an artist who shows tremendous leadership in supporting other artists, not only in their personal lives but in their careers. This Friday, Malos will be presented his award at Springboard for the Arts' annual fundraiser, Bounce Bash.

We caught up the Osgood Dogood Award's first ever recipient and local communitarian, Bob Malos, to talk about the program's roots and success...

l'étoile: What inspired the idea behind the Emergency Relief Fund?

Malos: A friend of mine needed some help back in 2001. I realized that there were probably other working artists who were facing a temporary crisis and needed the same type of help. I did some research and found a few examples of this type of thing (up to $500 of help for short-term emergencies) in other areas of the country.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of supporting artists?

It's a great investment in people and in our community. I only knew about a portion of the arts community but this enabled me to connect with the rest of the community. It's a great feeling to be a part of helping all these different artists from vastly different backgrounds.

Why do you think a fund for artists specifically is important as opposed to a relief for any other group?
A lot of people seem to think that the working artist who is struggling (the "starving artist") is just a lazy person who doesn't want to do "real work.” But I've seen how hard people work to support their artistic careers. And a society without artists is a very empty society.

When it comes to defining “emergency,” how do you establish the parameters of what the artists can use with the allotment?

This is what the application says and I think this describes it pretty well: "Artist applicants living in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota or Wisconsin may access up to $500 to meet or defray unexpected "emergency" expenses. Relief Fund payments are made directly to the business that the artist owes money, not to the artist applicant. For this reason, a copy of the outstanding bill the applicant requests assistance paying for is required. Please note that the Fund does not cover rent/fees to landlords, home mortgage, credit card bills and other anticipated expenses."

Photo from Bounce Bash 2009 / Courtesy of Springboard for the Arts

Are there other locally-based artist supporting initiatives that you are particularly fond of or admire?

I love what Artspace does because space is often the most difficult thing to find. A lot of the local foundations support small as well as large organizations and that's great. There's something called "A Very Small Arts Fund" that is a wonderful thing. And of course I'm biased but I do believe that Springboard provides a package of services that are truly unique - I don't think you'd find their equivalent anywhere else in the country.

Malos will be presented the Osgood Do-Good award at Springboard for the Arts' BOUNCE Bash at the McNally Smith College of Music Cafe on Friday, June 25th. The benefit will feature a visual art sale and live performances in music, spoken word and comedy. Tickets are $35 suggested donation. To reserve a seat, click HERE.

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