As an artist and local art gallery owner, Nik Bang wasn’t immune from losing work due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

But instead of letting the loss of work bring her down, Bang and a fellow gallery owner, Eric Inskip, decided to give back to the community. For much of the last week, Bang and Inskip have been giving out free food, water bottles and personal hygiene supplies to anyone who needs it. In the few days they’d set up across from the library, they distributed hundreds of sandwiches, along with hundreds more apples, bananas, oranges and art supply kits to those in need. 

“It’s been, like, the only thing good, honestly,” Bang said of the response they’ve seen. “It’s been the thing that’s been keeping me OK — I don’t have any work right now, so I just feel like this is my work.

“It’s been really great,” Bang said. “It’s really time for us to step in. I don’t know where my next few hundred bucks is going to come from, but I’d rather be doing something like this to keep my mental health good and connected to the community.” 

Inskip said they were initially going to host a food drive for a First Friday-type event downtown, but that they decided to change course when COVID-19 became a more serious concern in the community.

“A lot of resources are closed to the homeless right now — where they were getting food they’re either no longer (open) or they’re only offering to-go plates, so if you’re not there during the right hours or can’t make it (you don’t eat),” Inskip said. “We kind of have been trying to get out here during the off hours just to help keep people sustained.” 

And though they’re interacting with the public in the midst of a pandemic — and it’s recommended to stay home to avoid falling ill or spreading the disease — neither Bang nor Inskip are worried about contracting the disease themselves, but are wearing masks to cut down on the chance of them potentially infecting others. 

“I feel like I’m pretty healthy, but I am concerned about getting (COVID-19) and passing it to other people,” Bang said. 

Inskip said that he’s not “too worried” about the virus, saying it’s “a real possibility” they could get infected, but that it’s “more important” to get out and help the community who may be suffering more.

Bang and Inskip have been accepting donations of food, art supplies, grooming and hygiene supplies through their galleries, AV Club and Projexx on Instagram. Through Thursday, they’d been raising about $100 daily. For more information or to get involved, email [email protected]

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