Live ROC Event Raises $30K in COVID Relief for Artists of Color in Rochester


(WXIR-Rochester) While Rochester battles COVID-19, New York State's strict social distancing policy has put a strain on many gig-reliant artists.

And when it comes to relief funds, artists are usually not the first on the list.

But this week WOC Art Collaborative co-hosted a 24-hour fundraising event, COVID-19 Live ROC, to benefit local artists of color who organizers say are especially vulnerable during the crisis.

"Who's really addressing the fact that the Black and Brown community of creatives in this city are very vulnerable, because they're teaching artists, because they're gig artists?" asks WOC Art founder Rachel DeGuzman.

"Because of racism and segregation, [artists of color] actually don't have as many jobs at institutions. They get out there and they do their work on their own. They don't have that safety net," DeGuzman explains.

The inspiration behind the fundraiser's format came from the memorable Live Aid concert in 1985. Rachel and members of WOC Art Collaborative had to virtually reimagine this concept to fit the restrictions put in place by social distancing. The plan was to stream for 24 hours, each artist passing the virtual mic every 30 minutes, as the stage revolved from home to home.

"This is an opportunity for people of color to actually own the process and own the lens of who is a valuable recipient of funds too," says DeGuzman.

"Through doing this we're reconnecting with our community, we're building community."

Many artists were eager to play a part in this supportive festival of the arts. With a goal of raising $20,000 in 24-hours, the COVID-19 Live ROC event kicked off Wednesday at 7pm, and featured presentations from Danielle Ponder, Anderson Allen, Thomas Warfield, Adrianne Santucci, K'iah Gause of the Avenue Fellows, Athesia Benjamin, and many others.

By Friday morning, organizers say they'd shattered their goal, raising a total of $30,000.

The funds will be distributed in the form of emergency grants. Gig-dependent artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color can apply for the Live ROC emergency relief funds by filling out an application online at

Applications are due by 11:59pm Thursday, April 23rd.

From there, the grant committee, comprised of WOC Art Collaborative members, Acoma Choirs members and Akwaaba the Heritage Association, will determine how to allocate the funds.