Artists Amber and Alex Vincini sit by examples of their artwork outside their Everett studio Wednesday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Artists Amber and Alex Vincini sit by examples of their artwork outside their Everett studio Wednesday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Purchase Photo

CARES Act grant helps artists be creative — and pay the rent

The money allows Everett’s Schack Art Center to hire artists and art educators.

EVERETT — Amber and Alex Vincini used to show their art in crowded rooms as their friends played live music. Bringing people together was a big part of releasing their work.

But that hasn’t been able to happen during the pandemic.

At first, the Vincinis found it difficult to imagine their future as artists. The married couple live in Everett.

“It was hard to see where our art was going to fit in again, because the thing Alex and I like doing is throwing shows and having our friends’ bands play and getting people excited and coming together,” Amber Vincini said. “It’s like a big party when we release art, so it was hard to think now it would all be virtual.”

On top of that, they both were laid off from their jobs — he worked at a bar and she at a grocery store.

They asked Carol Thomas if she knew of any work. Thomas is the advancement development director at the Schack Art Center in downtown Everett.

Thomas did. The Schack had received funding through Workforce Snohomish to hire artists to create work either full- or part-time. Workforce Snohomish was awarded a CARES Act grant and offered to pay for the nonprofit’s employment of about 30 artists, art educators and administrative staff.

Each artist was paid $25 per hour. Thomas estimates Workforce Snohomish donated upwards of $112,000 of its CARES Act grant to hire the artists for the Schack.

The work they made will be on display Jan. 15 through Feb. 10 in an exhibit called “Schack CARES: Artist in Residence.”

All of the artists who were hired live in Snohomish County and were affected by the pandemic in some way. Many of the artists had collaborated with the Schack before. They made their own schedules and worked from home.

Both of the Vincinis were hired in December.

During those four weeks, Amber Vicini, 26, created found-object sculptures and framed pen-and-ink drawings. She also filmed video lessons for Teen Nights.

“It honestly was just kind of another boost for taking myself seriously as an artist and feeling some sort of value,” she said. “Because like I said, it was just hard to see the future, and now there was a reason to make something.”

For this exhibit, Alex Vincini, 29, used oil pastels and acrylic paints on large canvases framed in wood. Some are as big as 2 feet by 4 feet.

“The residency with Schack Art Center as part of the CARES Act couldn’t have come at a better time,” he said in a statement. “This past year has been tough, and I am incredibly thankful to have this opportunity to work from my art studio on a new body of work.”

The Vincinis share a space at The Rockafella Artist Studios on Hewitt Avenue, and in the past have shown their work at Black Lab Gallery on the same street.

Amber Vincini has been hired to continue with the Schack, to prepare all the new art for purchase.

Artist Nikki Gardner, who mostly works in oil paints, in her Snohomish studio on Wednesday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Artist Nikki Gardner, who mostly works in oil paints, in her Snohomish studio on Wednesday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Money raised will support the Schack after almost a year without any gatherings. Thousands of people usually show up to events such as Fresh Paint and the Artists’ Garage Sale. Those were cancelled in 2020, though the gallery and store remained open.

Another exhibit, “Sheltered: Artists Respond to COVID-19,” also opens Jan. 15. It will display work artists have created during the pandemic.

Thomas, the advancement development director, partnered with Workforce Snohomish to secure the CARES Act funding.

More than 60% of artists have become unemployed during the pandemic, she said. That’s partly because many artists work in hospitality and complete art in their spare time.

“We feel really fortunate that we have been able to employ these artists,” she said. “The impact of COVID on artists has been so extreme, so it was wonderful to be able to call an artist and ask, ‘Hey do you want to create some artwork for the Schack Art Center?’”

Artist Nikki Gardner said it’s almost unheard of to find full-time paid work as an artist. She mostly works in oil paints.

Judy Tuohy, the Schack’s executive director, called Gardner a couple of months ago to tell her about the program.

“I answered the phone caught off guard, like what’s the catch?” Gardner said. “But there wasn’t one, and I could tell how excited she was to be offering that to artists. It was an emotional phone call.”

Gardner, 47, lives in Snohomish and owns Art Spot Studio where she teaches art to youth. She had to shut down when COVID-19 hit and has not opened again. Her husband owns Tattoo Garden in Everett. He also had to close for a few months.

This opportunity has been a lifeline for their family, Gardner said.

“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “Even without the hardship of the pandemic, just being allowed to paint whatever I want and be paid for it, that never happens to artists. Usually it’s a struggle to be able to sell your work in the first place.”

That’s especially true now, because many people who usually would buy art have also lost their incomes.

It’s been hard to feel inspired during the pandemic, Gardner said. But working with the Schack has reminded her of her love for creating art.

“I am so grateful for this,” she said. “And I know the other artists are grateful for this as well.”

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192;; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

If you go

The exhibition “Schack CARES: Artist in Resident,” is running Jan. 15 through Feb. 10, and will be on display 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Schack Art Center, 2921 Hewitt Ave., Everett. Admission is free.

Another exhibit, “Sheltered: Artists Respond to COVID-19,” featuring work artists have created during the pandemic, also opens Jan. 15. Still playing it safe? You also can tour the “Schack CARES” and “Sheltered” exhibits online at

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