(CNN)Painter Guy Stanley Philoche, a New Yorker known for his colorful textured abstract artworks, has spent more than $65,000 buying work from struggling artists affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
A New York artist spent $65,000 buying art to support fellow artists struggling because of the pandemic
Philoche, 43, has dedicated himself to seeking out artists from around the world who are unable to make ends meet and has so far purchased more than 150 artworks for up to $500 each. His own pieces sell for up to $120,000, according to Cavalier Galleries.
"The art world is my community and I needed to help my community," Philoche told CNN. "People say New York is dead, but it's far from that. There's an artist somewhere writing the next greatest album. There's a kid right now in his studio painting the next Mona Lisa. There's probably a dancer right now choreographing the next epic ballet. People forgot about the artists in these industries."
When the pandemic began to affect families across the country, many people found themselves unable to pay rent, afford WiFi for their kids' distance learning, or even put food on the table.
As the ability to afford the basic necessities slowly diminished, art became a luxury not many could splurge on. In turn, hundreds of thousands of artists and independent creators were left without an income stream in the midst of the chaos.
One of these artists was Philoche's own friend, who just had a baby and had lost his job because of the pandemic.
"I told him, 'Don't worry, we're New Yorkers. We've been through 9/11, the blackout, the market crash, we've got this,'" Philoche said. "But he was scared, so I bought a painting from him to help him get through it. It was such a big deal for him at that moment, and that's when I realized if he's panicking like this, other artists are too."
In New York, like other cities across the country, galleries were shut down, art shows were canceled, and collectors began to limit their investments. So, Philoche took matters into his own hands.
On March 20, he posted on Instagram a video asking artists who were feeling the effects of the pandemic to direct message him their work. Whenever he saw a piece he fell in love with, Philoche bought it and paid for it to be shipped to his East Harlem studio.
Within months, artists from Los Angeles and Chicago to London and New Zealand -- and even artists who were in prison -- reached out to him with their stories and their creations.
"So many people have reached out to me, telling me the piece I bought was the first art they ever sold," Philoche said. "It meant a lot to me. I want to help as many artists as possible, to make sure they are able to buy groceries, or pay their rent, or get their kids diapers or formula."
For Tara Blackwell, an artist from Stamford, Connecticut, art is her sole source of income. The only way she can survive off her art is through showing her work to collectors at exhibits, galleries, and studio visits -- all which stopped because of the pandemic.
"Things were going pretty well for me and I had some exciting things coming up... and then it all stopped," Blackwell, 43, told CNN. "The struggle to make a living as an artist is something I've known from a young age. I'm used to the ups and downs, but this felt different. There were so many unknowns."
When things started to get difficult, Blackwell said one of the only forms of support she received was from Philoche.
Philoche purchased "Free Speech" for $500 from Blackwell's "Corner Store" series, in which she uses retro pop culture imagery from her childhood with graffiti influences and the incorporation of subtle social-political commentary.
"His support meant the world to me at a time when things seemed really bleak. Guy's support and end