NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Common Folk artists collective is doing its part to support the creative community during the pandemic.
With COVID-19 shuttering the downtown the collective knew it was important to find ways to protect the creative community and keep them together.
"Without the members, the collective isn't a collective," Common Folk's communications director Makayla-Courtney McGeeney said. "Sticking together and having everyone on the same page helps the organization grow and continue to offer benefits, even if things shift a little."
She said a majority of members have benefited from selling their work in the Common Folk store on Main Street as well as in other stores and restaurants throughout the city. With the city essentially shut down, there are no longer physical venues to share work.
"Some artists, particularly those in the collective, depend on foot traffic on Main Street to make a living from community members purchasing their art at our space," she said. "Without that, they can't make a living and contribute back to the community. It's a continuous circle. A community thrives and overcomes when everyone can support each other."
So Common Folks, like so many outlets, has moved art sales online for the time being.
But the novel coronavirus pandemic has caused deeper concerns among members, with many creative people losing their income.
"A large majority of creative people do not work full time in their craft. In the midst of COVID-19, many lost their part-time jobs in addition to losing access to creative resources," McGeeney said.
Common Folk is part of the North Adams Artist Impact Coalition, a larger group of cultural organizations intended to combine efforts in order to better serve area artists.
Members of the collective include various independent artists, musicians who have canceled tours and taken to livestreaming performances, and even staff from Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art who have been laid off.
"We are firm believers in collective action. We see first hand the significant benefits of people working together towards a common goal," Creative Director Jessica Sweeny said. "The North Adams Artist Impact Coalition is a bigger collaborative comprised of all stakeholders in the creative world here. And we are working together with data that we have collected locally to address the needs of the creative people that live here."
Beyond more tangible resources the two groups also look to keep the artist community connected when they are forced to be apart. McGeeney said they are hosting virtual craft nights as well as open "Common Ground" discussions.
They also look to share member art on social media, art supplies and other pick-me-ups. This is something they extended to the entire community through Community Supported Art (CSA) boxes.
"When things started to shake up with Covid-19 in March, it seemed like a good time to sprinkle a little love around the community," Sweeny said. "This idea was also an equitable way to support all the members who sell work in our brick and mortar while we worked to build out our online store."
McGeeney said the member-curated boxes are themed. She said they put together a date night box with hand made wooden spoons and even a cabin fever box with VHS tapes, CDs, and records.
They also believed it to be important to supply their members and the community with art supplies so they can keep on creating
"We also knew that no one would want to go to the store, especially just for art supplies, and in order to create at home, they needed supplies," McGeeney said. "While everything in the world changed each day, we gradually adjusted our store to meet the needs of our members and the public. Shortly after, creator members signed up to sell their own curated boxes of their specific items, similar to having their own retail spot in our physical store."
Sweeny said Common Folk by nature is flexible and throughout its existence, has adapted to different scenarios. She cited the members long search for a space of their own and noted for many years they were essentially "nomadic."
"Adapting has been important to us far before COVID-19 affected the globe," she said. "An artist collective only works to directly serve the members and their needs, so when those needs shift, we shift."
Sweeny said it is important to not only support each other and local businesses during the pandemic but also the creative community.
"The artist community is threaded between all facets of a community," she said. "They work at our favorite restaurants, they are volunteers for critical emergency and essential services, they work for essential services, they are our favorite entertainers, and keep us inspired. And we all could use a little inspiration right now."
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Know Your Risk Tolerance at Different Stages of Life
Submitted by Edward Jones
As an investor, you will always need to deal with risk of some kind. But how can you manage the risk that has been made clear by the recent volatility in the financial markets? The answer to this question may depend on where you are in life.
Let's look at some different life stages and how you might deal with risk at each of them:
• When you are first starting out: If you are early in your career, with perhaps four or even five decades to go until you retire, you can likely afford to invest primarily for growth, which also means you will be taking on a higher level of risk, as risk and reward are positively correlated. But, given your age, you have time to overcome the market downturns that are both inevitable and a normal part of investing. Consequently, your risk tolerance may be relatively high. Still, even at this stage, being over-aggressive can be costly.
• When you are in the middle stages: At this time of your life, you are well along in your career, and you are probably working on at least a couple of financial goals, such as saving for retirement and possibly for your children's college education. So, you still need to be investing for growth, which means you likely will need to maintain a relatively high risk tolerance. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to have some balance in your portfolio, so you will want to consider a mix of investments that align with each of your goals.
• When you are a few years from retirement: Now, you might have already achieved some key goals – perhaps your kids have finished college and you have paid off your mortgage. This may mean you have more money available to put away for retirement, but you still will have to think carefully about how much risk you are willing to take. Since you’re going to retire soon, you might consider rebalancing your portfolio to include some more conservative investments, whose value is less susceptible to financial market fluctuations. The reason? In just a few years, when you are retired, you will need to start taking withdrawals from your investment portfolio – essentially, you will be selling investments, so, as much as possible, you will want to avoid selling them when their price is down. Nonetheless, having a balanced and diversified portfolio doesn't fully protect against a loss. However, you can further reduce the future risk of being overly dependent on selling variable investments by devoting a certain percentage of your portfolio to cash and cash equivalents and designating this portion to be used for your daily expenses during the years immediately preceding, and possibly spilling into, your retirement.
• When you are retired: Once you are retired, you might think you should take no risks at all. But you could spend two or three decades in retirement, so you may need some growth potential in your portfolio to stay ahead of inflation. Establishing a withdrawal rate – the amount you take out each year from your investments – that's appropriate for your lifestyle and projected longevity can reduce the risk of outliving your money. Of course, if there's an extended market downturn during any time of your retirement, you may want to lower your withdrawal rate temporarily.
As you can see, your tolerance for risk, and your methods of dealing with it, can change over time. By being aware of this progression, you can make better-informed investment decisions.
Wayne Gelinas and Lea King have been forced to shutter their Mohawk Trail eatery, at least for the time being. But they have found a way to continue business online while providing free meals to those in need.
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