As artists and cultural organizations around the state struggle to keep their enterprises alive during the COVID-19 pandemic, foundations and government alike are finding new ways to help the creative sector survive.
Colorado Creative Industries just announced 722 grants awarded by the Colorado Arts Relief Grant, which will give individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations a total of $7.4 million in COVID-19 relief funds released by the Colorado Legislature during its emergency session late last year.
“Colorado’s arts, culture and entertainment industries play a critical role in our economy and are essential to our recovery and resiliency,” notes Colorado Creative Industries director Margaret Hunt in a statement announcing the grants. “The Colorado Arts Relief program offers direct funding to the individuals, businesses and organizations most severely impacted by COVID-19 capacity restrictions.”
The $7.4 million is a fraction of the $25 million that arts advocates told state lawmakers the sector would need to survive shutdowns and capacity restrictions, says Chris Zacher, head of nonprofit venue Levitt Pavilion and co-captain of the Colorado chapter of the National Independent Venues Association. But with so many struggling industries, lawmakers decided they could only allocate the $7.4 million, and the funds had to be distributed to those organizations closest to shutting down for good.
Zacher, whose venue applies but did not secure one of those grants, is nevertheless optimistic about what has been achieved. "The $7.4 million arts grant pathway created by the State of Colorado is providing much-needed assistance to arts, culture and entertainment organizations across the state," he notes, but also points out that only "24 percent of the eligible organization applicants were funded, and 51 percent of the eligible individual applicants were funded."
Of the $7.4 million awarded, $1.365 million went to 599 individuals in 41 counties through $2,500 grants; $5,985,500 was allotted to 123 arts, culture and entertainment organizations. The amounts of the grants were based on the groups' budgets and how much money they had lost between 2019 and 2020, according to the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, which houses Colorado Creative Industries.
"I know that many in our community are upset about not receiving grants," Zacher says. "It's important that we all understand that the need far outweighed the available funding. Being turned down for a grant is not an indication that an individual or organization isn’t worthy or relevant; instead, it indicates that someone else met the criteria more than they did. No matter how we look at this, it’s a win for our arts community. Individuals have money to pay rent, bills and, most importantly, put food on the table, and businesses that were on the verge of permanent closure will continue to stay alive. So let’s celebrate those facts while we get fighting for the survival of our arts scene. This is not the end of our story; it’s the beginning of the next chapter."
Funds will be distributed with help from RedLine Contemporary Art Center starting this weekend, says RedLine's Louise Martorano.
The recipients of the largest grants:
Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Z2 Entertainment (which runs the Boulder and Fox theaters)
Colorado Shakespeare Festival
Swallow Hill Music
QTB, LLC dba Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom
Cherokee Ranch & Castle Foundation
Pikes Peak Center for The Performing Arts
SBG Productions INC.
Sheridan Arts Foundation
Cottonwood Center for the Arts
Larimer Lounge LLC
Museum of Outdoor Arts
Vail Valley Foundation
Berkeley Highlands Productions LLC
Fort Collins Museum of Discovery
City of Fort Collins - Lincoln Center
Telluride Arts District
For the full list of grant recipients, go to the Office of Economic Development and Trade website.
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