[Visionaries in Craft] CERF+ (Craft Emergency Relief Fund)

[Visionaries in Craft] CERF+ (Craft Emergency Relief Fund)

Cornelia Carey
Published on Thursday, July 7, 2022. This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of American Craft Magazine.
man in red hat and jacket standing the rubble of a burned down studio

Photo courtesy of CERF+.

For years, when craft artists suffered major setbacks—accidents, thefts, studio fires—colleagues would support their recovery by passing the hat at American Craft Council fairs. However, for glass artist Josh Simpson, ceramicist Marylyn Dintenfass, and Carol Sedestrom Ross, president of American Craft Enterprises (which became part of the American Craft Council), this wasn’t good enough. So in 1985 they founded the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (now known as CERF+).

The trio “sought to harness this spirit of generosity and transform this gesture into something more concrete and tangible to ensure that craft artists always had somewhere to turn when faced with a career-threatening emergency,” says CERF+ Executive Director Cornelia Carey (right), who has led the organization since 1996 and will step down as director in the fall.

Best known for emergency monetary relief, offered before FEMA and insurance support arrive, the organization also provides career protection education and resources and advocates for artists’ needs when they have emergencies, such as when Eric Knoche (top) lost his North Carolina studio in a 2019 fire. Under Carey’s leadership it helped create the National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness and Emergency Response (NCAPER) to improve the overall disaster safety net for artists.

portrait of cornelia carey

Photo courtesy of CERF+.

The pandemic, of course, caused widespread hardship. Since 2020, CERF+ has provided 1,211 artists with $1,579,125, which is nearly a twofold increase over the previous two years. But the needs will continue beyond COVID, says Carey. “There are many artists, including folk and traditional artists, who live in communities threatened by climate change and systemic racism. We want to make sure that they know of and benefit from our programs.”

cerfplus.org | @cerfplus

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