Photography by Rasy Ran
Organizations that relied on large gatherings were hit particularly hard by the shutdown of Dallas, but Deep Vellum fared OK. Readers had plenty of newfound time.

But freelance writers who relied on literary endeavors as their primary sources of income struggled.

Deep Vellum launched an emergency fund for Texas literary artists in response. The local publishing house raised $11,500 in private donations and distributed grants of about $250 to 43 writers across the state.

“What little we gave was a lot to them,” says Will Evans, executive director of Deep Vellum. “This [virus] is dragging on, and there’s no more relief coming for anybody, it looks like. We’re trying to make it work for these great writers.”

The applications Deep Vellum received painted a dire portrait. Nearly 30 percent of applicants had been laid off from a secondary, non-literary job, and half earned less than $15,000 a year.

The need for more support was clear. A second round of fundraising produced $12,000, composed of private donations and a $5,000 grant from United Way. The need-based grants will be distributed in November.

“We could use $5,000 too, but another day,” Evans says. “It’s about paying forward the goodwill we’ve received from the literary community across Texas.”

Deep Vellum may not be struggling as much as other businesses, but it hasn’t escaped the economic slump caused by the pandemic. Sales are down, and Evans, a Hollywood Heights neighbor, urged residents to shop at local bookstores like Deep Vellum, Wild Detectives, Interabang Books and Pan-African Connection.

“What I fear is that arts organizations are going to go away,” Evans says. “We need them, not just the big ones. We need small ones doing amazing work.”

During the pandemic, Deep Vellum ramped up its digital programming, which was attended by people around the world. It organized question- and-answer sessions with authors, diversity in literature webinars and more.

Now, the publishing house is about to kick off a capital campaign to build a literary arts center. The goal is to bring together readers, writers and literary nonprofits under a single roof. The dream space would include a bookstore, book production studio, café, nonprofit offices and co-working space.

“It’s a bit bigger than where we are now, but we’re looking to put down roots in Dallas forever and make this last long past me,” Evans says.

HOW TO HELP SAVE THE DALLAS ARTS SCENE:

  • Shop from local vendors and artists.
  • Give art with a gift card.
  • Participate in programs online.
  • Be honest. If three people are participating in a virtual program on one computer, buy three tickets.
  • If you’re able, donate to arts organizations and nonprofits. Even small gifts make a difference.
  • Share art, resources and fundraisers on your social media platforms.

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