Podcast: Disability and Health in Focus: Art Enables

00;00;08;19 – 00;00;11;29
Vabren Watts
Thank you for joining Health Affairs this week. I’m Wabren Watts.

00;00;12;27 – 00;00;13;19
Ryan Tanap
And I’m Ryan Tanap.

00;00;14;17 – 00;00;39;22
Vabren Watts
You know the Health Affairs October issue focuses on disability and health. As part of the release, we’re including artwork to accompany some of the content from residents of Art Enables, an art gallery, professional art program in Washington, DC. If you haven’t checked it out yet, today’s co-host Ryan Tanapp wrote a Forefront article about Art Enables and had the pleasure of speaking with some of the resident artists and staff.

00;00;40;09 – 00;01;04;11
Ryan Tanap
Yes, that’s right, Vabe. And I just wanted to direct listeners to our Health Affairs Sunday Update newsletter, which you can subscribe to, as well as social media, specifically LinkedIn, where we feature five Art Enables artists. We buy their artwork and will present a brief profile of each of them as well as the artwork we purchase.

00;01;04;11 – 00;01;14;29
Ryan Tanap
So please check this out. And to continue the conversation, we’re joined today by Tony Brunswick, CEO of Art Enables. Tony, thanks so much for joining us.

00;01;14;29 – 00;01;17;18
Tony Brunswick
Thank you. I am honored to be here. I appreciate the invitation.

00;01;17;26 – 00;01;22;29
Ryan Tanap
Oh, absolutely. So if we can start, what is Art Enables, Tony?

00;01;23;07 – 00;01;42;19
Tony Brunswick
Yes, I am very happy to talk about it. So Art Enables is a professional art gallery and studio dedicated to expanding the careers of artists with disabilities. And we do this by providing artists with the platform to create, exhibit and monetize their artwork.

00;01;43;01 – 00;01;49;05
Vabren Watts
So Tony, what type of guidance does Art Enables provide to artists on how to set rates for artwork?

00;01;49;14 – 00;02;19;26
Tony Brunswick
Yes, so we do a lot of work supporting the artists in the art, the artwork creation phase, the marketing phase and the exhibition and sale phase. And pricing artwork is difficult for any working, emerging, and professional artist. So we sit down with the artist and talk about what the DC market typically brings for artwork and discuss how artists want to be able to price and sell their work.

00;02;21;00 – 00;02;34;18
Tony Brunswick
There is a consistent price range that the studio usually works within, but we want to make sure we honor the artists, the time they put into the work, and the work itself by pricing it at an affordable price.

00;02;35;10 – 00;02;42;26
Ryan Tanap
And just to follow that up, can the artists have any say in that price? Yes

00;02;42;26 – 00;03;07;16
Tony Brunswick
Yes, definitely. You know, some artists prefer to let the studio handle that aspect of sales. And then we have other artists that we contact and give us advice and feedback on what they think the work should be rated for. And so it’s a conversation in the studio with the artists about what the final price is for each individual work.

00;03;08;13 – 00;03;32;04
Ryan Tanap
Great. Thank you. So we read an NPR article from 2017 that you and I had talked about before before I wrote the article. And in that article you stated that when an artist joins Art Enables through the D.C. Department of Disability Services, about 70% of the cost is covered by a waiver program funded by Medicare and Medicaid. Is that still the case?

00;03;33;14 – 00;04;08;12
Tony Brunswick
Yes and no. No, since the pandemic it has affected our programming, which affects how we work with Medicaid and how we work with the District of Columbia Department of Disability Services. So our revenue from providing Medicaid waiver services has decreased overall. Also, 70% even before the pandemic it is true that it covered 70% of our expenses. I would say with, you know, the economy the way it is now, everything costs more as an organization.

00;04;08;12 – 00;04;29;02
Tony Brunswick
It costs more to keep people. It costs more to run programs that even if we were billing at the same levels or operating the Medicaid waiver programs at the same levels today as we were before the pandemic, it would be less than that 70% now. If we try to be 100% funded by what we receive through our partnership with Medicaid,

00;04;29;02 – 00;04;52;10
Tony Brunswick
we will have to make some drastic changes as an organization to be able to operate within Medicaid funding. As it stands, we do a lot of external fundraising and development to help offset the costs that we believe should and should go into supporting artist careers through our program model.

00;04;53;07 – 00;05;13;21
Ryan Tanap
You mentioned that the pandemic has significantly affected Art Enables funding. And you know, that’s the case with organizations everywhere. We’ll be curious to hear how exactly Art Enables fills the funding gap? Did you have to reach out to existing groups of supporters or did you find new, new funders?

00;05;13;21 – 00;05;46;20
Tony Brunswick
So, you know, for so many people, when the pandemic hit, it was just such a hard hit. And I think for people who work with Medicaid-funded programs, it’s been particularly difficult. We lost about 95% of our Medicaid funding after the pandemic hit. So that was a pretty drastic blow for us. But luckily we were able to offset 100% of those losses through other revenue streams, through individuals who just increased their donations, Art Enables is a non-profit organization.

00;05;46;20 – 00;06;17;23
Tony Brunswick
So there were many people who increased their financial support for the organization. We found the New Foundation and community funders, state and government funding organizations that we were able to apply for and receive grants. And then we also took advantage as much as we could of the available emergency funds for COVID, whether at the federal level through the PPP programs or at the state level where there may have been state assistance programs available.

00;06;18;00 – 00;06;43;16
Tony Brunswick
So a combination of all of that and being extremely resourceful and trying to find additional funds, we were able to withstand the financial impact of COVID. This is how we were able to continue to fully support every person who received services through our studio throughout the duration of the pandemic, for which we are truly grateful and proud.

00;06;44;14 – 00;06;51;26
Ryan Tanap
This is fantastic. Was there anything else you think we should know that we didn’t really ask about today?

00;06;52;25 – 00;07;23;27
Tony Brunswick
I would just say for those listeners who are new to Art Enables, I would invite you to check out our website. We have incredibly talented artists working in the studio who have built an incredible following of art collectors and buyers. And the work really stands on its own against its peers in the visual arts space. Art Enables has been around for 21 years.

00;07;23;27 – 00;07;42;28
Tony Brunswick
The artists have sold over a million and a half dollars worth of artwork and merchandise during that time. And it’s just, it’s a really exciting program and it’s an amazing display of talent that we just want people to know about and see and experience and if you want to buy.

00;07;44;14 – 00;08;07;25
Vabren Watts
This is amazing. You know, the piece is again related to the issue of disability and health. Check out Ryann’s article where she has links to artist profiles and bios, as well as some more art. And if you look at just the issue of disability and health, even our main cover features art from Art Enables.

00;08;08;08 – 00;08;27;16
Vabren Watts
You know, Tony, thank you so much for joining us for Health Affairs this week. And thanks to our listeners for another episode. If you like this episode, please tell a friend, leave a review, or subscribe wherever you listen to your podcast. Once again, on health matters, I’m Wabren Watts.

00;08;28;12 – 00;08;29;17
Ryan Tanap
And I’m Ryan Tanap.

00;08;29;28 – 00;08;45;13
Vabren Watts
Bye.

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