Artists, venues and crew members have been clamoring for support since the live-entertainment industry was shut down by the government in March to slow the spread of COVID-19. Federal, state and local government agencies and the private sector have offered some aid, but not enough to match the need, and many metro area organizations risk closing altogether in 2021, according to a recent Scientific and Cultural Facilities District study.
Now the state is stepping up to help the cultural sector until the federal government — which has been mired in partisan gridlock and lacking a comprehensive executive strategy — can pass a relief bill.
The Colorado Arts Relief Fund will direct up to $7.5 million in state grants to artists, crew members and for-profit and nonprofit organizations hit hard by the economic impact of the virus. Colorado Creative Industries, the state's arts agency, is accepting and reviewing applicants from around the state, and RedLine Contemporary Art will distribute the funds.
The money is part of an initiative pushed by Representative Leslie Herod and passed by the Colorado General Assembly during the special session called by Governor Jared Polis, which mandated that lawmakers come together to find state-level solutions since the federal government has been largely AWOL for months. Though industry leaders say there's hope that a new stimulus bill might be passed in the coming days that would include funding for live entertainment, Colorado lawmakers weren't waiting around for that, and approved a measure that would offer grants to people and organizations in the creative sector.
"What an incredible outcome that our leadership decided to provide some funding for the creative sector," says Colorado Creative Industries head Margaret Hunt.
Of the $7.5 million, $500,000 will go to individuals, who are eligible for grants up to $2,500. Applicants can include artists, entertainers and crew members who have lost revenue because of government-mandated closures and have not been able to replace that income through other work or grants.
Businesses and organizations are also eligible to apply for operating support if their ticket sales and revenue have dropped because they were shuttered by the government during the pandemic. Bars, restaurants and clubs will receive emergency funding through a separate package from the Department of Local Affairs.
"What we're trying to do with ours is try to identify those organizations that have slipped between the cracks in terms of funding," says Hunt. "I talked to quite a few organizations that applied for PPP funding and the Energize Colorado gap funding that didn't get funding. We're hoping that we can help prioritize those that didn't receive any relief to date. We'll spread this funding as far as we can."
While the money will help, it's far from enough to get every organization and artist the help they need. Still, gap funding has been Polis's goal for months.
"The idea was: Let's create a bridge to funding while we wait for some federal resources to be deployed," explains Hunt. "We know it's not enough, but we hope it's going to help a little bit to fill the gap before additional support can come through."
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