Preparing for the Worst: Art Emergencies

Preparing for the Worst: Art Emergencies

A couple years ago, I got a scary email that had informed me that there was a fire in my studio building. Luckily, it was contained but was large enough that it had managed to set off the sprinkler systems. This fire happened down the hallway from my studio and I received no damage. This experience was a good safety reminder to think about how to best prepare for and prevent these types of situations.

Emergencies happen and usually when we least expect them. We can feel anything but prepared and a bit helpless or frustrated at times while trying to manage the emergency, diffuse the situation or to recover emotionally, mentally, creatively or financially. Emergencies cannot be avoided in some circumstances but you can lay some groundwork to help prevent some possible emergencies or set up some “nets” so if something were to happen you had a plan. This post outlines resources of artists to help prepare for a potential emergency situation so if or when they happen there is a basic plan to help you at your worst time.


Since both grant research and writing takes a considerable amount of time, begin collecting a few emergency funds that you may pre-qualify for amd could write for if emergency funds were needed. Each grant proposal has different eligibility requirements some are for catastrophic incidents like fire, flood, medical illness. Some are media specific and assist artists, performers and writers. While we cannot predict what emergency will occur, we can easily weed out possible grants if we already don’t fit the media requirements. Some grants require you to be at a certain stage of your career as well. Weed out resources that won’t be beneficial to you and keep a running list of possible resources in your worst case scenario.

CERF has something called the Studio Protector which is a poster that you can hang in your studio that helps you plan and react to emergencies in the moment. It can guide you through preparing emergency kits, supplies and more. Its great because it prompts you to think about how you would leave your space in case of an emergency and plan an effective exit strategy.


Insurance is there to help out when the worst case scenario has happened, accident, fire, death, health issues and more. While insurance can sometimes feel like an added expense to our small businesses and studio rents, don’t skimp on insurance. You can often bundle your studio insurance with your home or auto provider or you can find companies and non-profits that work with artists and can give you insurance for your studio space. Fractured Atlas is a great insurance resource for artists. CERF also has a really great PDF of a Business Insurance Guidebook for Artists.

Another important aspect of insurance is having an inventory of your materials. Take inventory of your artwork, tools, and other items in your studio. Make lists and take photos and store these in a secondary location (anywhere but your studio). When the worst happens, you have records of what you had in your space and proof of your assets.


Identify your risks. Overloading your outlets, burning candles, storing reactive or hazardous materials and not having proper ventilation can increase your chances of an accident or emergency happening in your space. Walk your space and do a safety walk-through and identify ways you can prevent emergencies from happening. If something is questionable as far as safety goes, its probably not a good idea.

Locate your local hazardous waste recycling centers. E-waste (electronic garbage) can usually be recycled for free at any Best Buy. And hazardous waste is usually free at your local county waste site or has a few days a year annually where recycling hazardous material is free. Get rid of these materials especially if they are sitting idle in your studio.

Preparation Grants

If you have a great plan and spent some time figuring out how you can protect yourself, your business and your art work, then considering writing a grant to execute this protection. CERF “Get Ready” Grants to help artists safeguard their studios. It is a $500 grant that give you the opportunity to work on preparing your studio or business for the worst.

Legacy Planning

Artist Legacy Fund with the Joan Mitchell Foundation, “Creating a Living Legacy” has a printable book to help you through the legacy planning. Its a large project to begin planning your art’s legacy. Whats great about this resource is being in the drivers seat for what happens for your work once you have passed away. Since all artists will experience death, its good to know you can plan for your work’s future even when your death is unexpected. You get to decide what happens to your art. While donating your work to the local museum sounds great and seems like a good option, they get a great tax write off and you probably won’t be hanging in their gallery walls. This resource can help think about real ways to manage and plan for your work’s longevity and gives you other options for your artwork.

Emergency Savings Account

Open up a special savings account for your art funds or small business savings account that is just for an emergency. Do not allow yourself to spend this money. This money should only be used when you have an emergency. It will be helpful when you need to make a large unplanned purchase or need funds between emergency expenses and insurance payouts. You will thank yourself later if you plan this small amount of side cash. Start small even $100 in your account is a good start. Anything is better than nothing. Your ultimate goal should be saving at least 6 months of operating expenses (including rent, insurance, monthly fees or bills including WiFi, water, or electricity).

 Interested in making your studio space more safe and secure? Check out this article:

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