Program makes positive difference in a community of creative souls

Posted 11/5/20

Will Ridenour has been a full-time professional musician, specializing in folkloric percussion from numerous international traditions, since 2006.

Not only does Ridenour make and perform music, he …

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Program makes positive difference in a community of creative souls

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Will Ridenour has been a full-time professional musician, specializing in folkloric percussion from numerous international traditions, since 2006.

Not only does Ridenour make and perform music, he also teaches, repairs instruments, co-facilitates keynote presentations for large corporations and mentors up and coming musicians. Though he has taken a multi-faceted approach to his art, he was not spared the economic impact of COVID-19.

“Basically overnight, all my gigs were canceled for the year,” Ridenour says. “I was looking at a whole lot less money coming in and I was freaking out.” Ridenour, who receives 100% of his income from the arts, applied to several local and national grants and was relieved to receive financial assistance from the Chatham Arts Council’s CAARE — the Chatham Artist and Arts-Workers Relief Effort program.

“If I had not gotten this grant, I would’ve been worried about my expenses for the next couple of months,” Ridenour said.

CAARE was created with initial seed money generously granted by Manbites Dog Theater Fund and has been sustained by donations from the Chatham community. The application process is simple and the goal is to help with basic financial needs for artists and arts-workers (people who make their living in the arts by making artist events possible, including gallery owners, artist managers, stage managers, arts nonprofit administrators, etc.).

Unfortunately, many artists and arts-workers, like Ridenour, are still dealing with widespread cancellations of concerts, plays, events and art shows — the outlets that they rely on to pay their bills. CAARE is meant to provide immediate assistance to help relieve this burden. The funds have been used to pay for medication, rent, groceries, utilities — all the regular expenses that seem out of reach when a pandemic dries up income.

“There was a point when I thought — things are getting tough. I’m getting less money for my job, but I’m still making by,” said JR Butler, a visual artist known for his murals.

Then as the pandemic dug its heels in, he lost his part-time arts job altogether.

“I went in to pick up my last paycheck and was told, ‘By the way, you can’t work anymore,’” he explained. “That last paycheck was already spent, so it was a rude awakening.”

For Butler, not having a paycheck meant more than not being able to pay living expenses. It also meant not being able to afford needed medication to mitigate a heart condition.

“When I got the CAARE package, I had run out of meds and I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said. “The funds helped with everything — I paid for medication, groceries, a doctor’s appointment, toiletries, insurance for my car, gas, propane — everything!”

That’s precisely the goal.

The Chatham Arts Council is working hard to spread the word about the availability of CAARE funds.

“We’ve gotten a recent $8,500 infusion of CAARE funds through the County Coronavirus Relief Fund, and artists should apply as soon as possible — because we’ll be granting all those dollars by Dec. 31,” said Cheryl Chamblee, the executive director of the Chatham Arts Council.

The CAARE application can be found at

Both of these artists are encouraging fellow artists to apply for the grant right away. And they both agree that the process was much easier than other grants they’ve applied for.

“If you are going to do anything to make your situation better, apply for CAARE because it’s so simple and it’s so immediate,” Butler said.

Right now, so many people are suffering the financial impact of a pandemic that seems determined to stick around. The Chatham Arts Council hopes CAARE will be a welcome relief.

“The knowledge that people were being supported as artists was really powerful,” said Ridenour. “It let me know that there were people there for me.” And that, is what Chatham County is all about.

For more information or to apply, visit


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Will Ridenour

April did a fantastic job with this story. Let's get the word out about CAARE!

Thursday, November 5, 2020

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