Art News

Denver's COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund Receives National Recognition

Athena Project is one of the many recipients of the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund.
Athena Project is one of the many recipients of the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund. Athena Project
click to enlarge Athena Project is one of the many recipients of the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund. - ATHENA PROJECT
Athena Project is one of the many recipients of the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund.
The pandemic made things tough all over, but perhaps especially in Denver’s arts and culture community. Closures, restrictions, cancelations and more all added up to the potential doom of institutions that had previously been doing yeoman’s work in the humanities. So the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and the Denver Foundation teamed up to create the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund, which in two rounds of funding and 96 total grants provided $2.1 million in support for 72 organizations.

Now the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund has been named “Outstanding Foundation” as part of the upcoming celebration for National Philanthropy Day in Colorado on November 15.

National Philanthropy Day is a nationwide program by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. AFP Colorado is proud to serve as host for this year’s celebration, where 600 community members are expected to gather in recognition of the achievements of a dozen awardees.

“We are grateful to the Association of Funding Professionals for recognizing that the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund was a remarkable example of what can happen when foundations, city governments and generous people come together to create solutions and address challenges collectively,” says Javier Alberto Soto, the Denver Foundation’s president and CEO.
click to enlarge Denver's Curious Theatre Company is one of the many recipients of the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund. - YOUTUBE/CURIOUS THEATER COMPANY
Denver's Curious Theatre Company is one of the many recipients of the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund.
YouTube/Curious Theater Company
“In a time of so much turmoil and hardship,” says Gary Steuer, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation President and CEO. “It was gratifying to see so many philanthropic colleagues recognize the critical role our arts organizations and artists play in our community and see the urgency of ensuring that they survive the devastating impact of COVID on the cultural sector.”


One of those organizations that benefited from the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund was the long-successful youth-outreach program Art From Ashes. Just about to begin its eighteenth year of operation, Art From Ashes found itself in the same leaky boat of 2020: cash-strapped and limited in the work it could do. The fund helped.

“I can’t say enough about it,” says Celeste Seiler, Art From Ashes director of operations. “The Fund is how we’ve been surviving. When everything shut down last year, it turned everything upside down.”
Art From Ashes was founded in 2003 by poet Catherine O’Neill Thorn, who now serves as executive director. It seeks to provide “creative empowerment workshops to high-risk youth, facilitating expression, connection and transformation among the most neglected and vulnerable segments of our community.”

“We’re all about connection,” says Seiler. “We had to find a new way to do things, figure out a way for our youth programs to function virtually and still serve those that couldn’t. We came up with a writing kit for kids with an online accessibility issue. It’s a condensed version of our Phoenix Rising curriculum, designed to be independently user-friendly. A lot of the funding we were awarded last year kept us alive and able to do what we do. It was an incredible honor and a wonderful recognition of the work Art From Ashes has done over the years.”

"The COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund represents the best of what philanthropy can accomplish when funders work together toward a common goal," notes Gina Ferrari, director of the grants program at the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation. "This model is an excellent example of the power of collective impact."

For more information on the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Fund, including ways to donate, see either the Denver Foundation or the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation websites.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen