In Art News
Where the Sick Artists At?
It was raining and it was dark. The light coming from Country Doctor Community Clinic was yellow and warm, like a contented kitchen, and this was not misleading. You could, in fact, go into this place for refuge and help (and an escape from the sort of thinking teabaggers do). Country Doctor Community Clinic, founded in 1971 by community activists, has always been a thing from another, better place and time. They take you in regardless of whether you can pay. And on this Wednesday night, this little building was the only thing lighting up the corner of 19th Avenue and Republican Street on Capitol Hill: a literal beacon. It was also artists' night at the clinic, which is kind of like ladies' night at a bar—specials! creatively described illnesses!—but no artists had been there, said the nice lady under the pretty stained-glass window at the reception desk.
In fact, no artists have ever been to artists' night at Country Doctor Community Clinic.
Artist Clinic, as artists' night is called, began in January as a yearlong pilot project put together by Country Doctor and Washington Artists Health Insurance Project (WAHIP). In 2006, WAHIP released a fact sheet about the need for artists' health care: Artists are slightly more likely than the general population to be uninsured (a rate of about 15 percent in Washington State), and an additional 30 percent of artists are considered underinsured (they spend more than 10 percent of their annual expenses on medical costs) or at-risk (uninsured in the last three years). A cartel of funders including Artist Trust, Musicians' Association of Seattle, and MusiCares cobbled together a pot of about $8,000 for the pilot, called the Artist Clinic. By simply filling out a form that demonstrates a commitment to their art, uninsured artists can get $75, up to twice in a year, to cover medical services or prescriptions at Country Doctor. (It's intended to help artists establish primary-care relationships and help with basic needs, Artist Trust executive director Fidelma McGinn says.)
But eight months came and went with no artists at artists' night. So in August the program shifted to make the vouchers available for appointments at any time (and to loosen income requirements). Since then, six artists have gotten on board. Okay, but... where the sick artists at?
"None of us can really figure out why nobody's responding to it. It's baffling," says Miguel Guillen of Artist Trust. "We know people need it. We know it's a tiny subsidy. But this is a pilot project. It's incentive money for organizations to try to get out there and fund these types of projects into the future, so we're like, 'Oh my god, artists, get out there and use these funds.'"