With the help of fellow artists and donors, painter Hannah Beerman has raised upward of $130,000 for pandemic relief
“I was filled with a lot of rage and sadness at the enormity of this crisis, and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations. I wanted to find a way to channel that intensity of feeling into action, but I wasn’t sure what my options were,” Hannah Beerman tells me over Facetime. “I couldn’t volunteer physically, and I don’t have the resources to personally donate—but what I did have was art and access to my community of artists.”
Leveraging her network within the New York art world, Beerman took to Instagram to launch Artists for Humans, an underground grassroots fundraising initiative of artists working to protect the city’s most vulnerable populations: the homeless, elderly, and immunocompromised. The day after setting up the platform on Instagram, she awoke to a deluge of over 400 direct messages from friends and strangers who wanted to volunteer, contribute, and donate their own works of art for the cause—a dizzying public response that Beerman hadn’t anticipated. The project has continued gaining traction and has since raised upwards of $130,000 for charity by offering works of contemporary art in return for donations to New York City nonprofits, such as Coalition for the Homeless and the Food Bank for New York City.
The day after setting up the platform on Instagram, she awoke to a deluge of over 400 direct messages from friends and strangers who wanted to volunteer, contribute, and donate their own works of art for the cause.
Many of Beerman’s friends, contemporaries, and heroes have donated works to the cause, including notable names such as Katherine Bradford, Brain Belott, Jeffrey Gibson, EJ Hauser, Chris Martin, Vaughn Spann, Eddie Martinez, Grace Metzler, Ana Benoroya, and Marcus Jahmal, among others. “I’m kind of like a matchmaker,” Beerman explains. “The art incentivizes potential donors to give a certain amount directly to charity, and once they prove they’ve done that, we connect them to the artist.”
For those involved, Artists for Humans has also come to foster a sense of community, resilience, and solidarity in the midst of the pandemic. “The project has expanded even beyond the original concept to become a massive community networking effort,” Beerman says. “People have been so generous and giving of time, energy, and spirit. Just the other day, I met someone through the project who works for a pharmaceutical company in Hong Kong, who sent me 200 masks that I was able to distribute. And beyond linking the artists with the people who donate, there is also a constellation of connections emerging between the artists—new friendships, virtual crit groups—that creates a real feeling of community building, of helping each other and being part of this human family.”
“The project has expanded even beyond the original concept to become a massive community networking effort.”
Beerman, a 28-year-old painter, is no stranger to using art as a means to relate with the world and people around her. “Scavenging through the world allows me to be in it,” she states in her MFA thesis at Hunter. “I collect objects that I respond to formally, as pieces and shapes that happen not to be whipped up by a brush in an atelier.” Beerman’s paintings combine found and collected items with thick strokes of paint, pencil, and glue, creating an intimate ecosystem of assemblage that brings to mind the kinetic paintings of the late Carolee Schneeman, a friend and mentor of Beerman. While we talk on Facetime, she moves around her East Village studio—a rent-stabilized hand-me-down from another artist friend—and shows me new objects and materials her friends have sent her in the mail or dropped off at her door to use in her work.
“I think there’s a bit of a misconception about romanticizing art under quarantine,” she tells me after I ask about how the pandemic has affected preparation for her first solo show with Kapp Kapp. “It’s a bad time for a lot of people. But I’ve been making a lot of work, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to invest my energy in activism during this time. Before the platform took off, I was feeling so helpless and angry about the human impact of this crisis. I created Artists for Humans in the hope that helping others would help me survive in turn.”
Artists for Humans can be found on Instagram at @ArtistsForHumans. You can donate to support the project on Venmo at Artists4Humans.