The arts and culture sector is struggling; the City of Phoenix, independent organizations and patrons take initiative

Arts and cultural organizations have experienced nearly $7 billion in losses due to the pandemic, which does not bode well for communities

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The Phoenix Public Art Program fosters collaborations among artists, engineers, architects, landscape architects and other urban designers and thinkers to enhance the look, feel and function of a wide range of public buildings, spaces and infrastructure. Image: ‘Art is a guaranty of sanity’/Phoenix Convention Center

Last month, Phoenix, Arizona’s City Council announced that of the $293 million in federal funding the city received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $2.6 million would be going towards COVID-19 relief for the city’s arts and culture sector. Funding would be provided to individual artists and nonprofit organizations affected by the pandemic as grants.

This was especially welcome news for the Phoenix arts community since in March, the $2 million in funding requested by the Arizona Commission on the Arts had been left out of the state’s “skinny” budget of $50 million for the fiscal year.

According to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, the city’s arts and culture sector generates over $400 million in revenue annually. “When the arts are supported, our quality of life improves and our local economy benefits,” she said.

With the funding provided through the CARES Act, one-time emergency relief grants with amounts of up to $50,000 were made available for local arts and culture groups that lost revenue due to the cancelation of events, programs and performances. Smaller grants of up to $1,500 were also made available for individual artists who lost income due to performances, shows, contracts and sales being cancelled or terminated.

Funding was also allocated for technical assistance, including workshops, webinars and other resources that could help nonprofit arts organizations strategize their financial futures.

It seems Phoenix is pioneering the use of city or state funding awarded through the CARES Act to directly aid its local artists and cultural organizations. While applications for the Arts and Culture Coronavirus Relief Program are now closed, cities looking to establish similar initiatives through their CARES Act funding can learn more at

Boosting public Safety And The Economy Through Community Arts And Culture Resources

Though the nation is in a time of crisis, it’s important to recognize the importance of investing in arts and cultural resources, as they play a major role in community development, including public safety. Studies show that these resources have a positive impact on individual persons and community well-being alike.

A 2017 study commissioned by ArtPlace America, led by then PhD candidate Tasha Golden, found that “arts and cultural strategies are helping drive change in community health outcomes.” In particular, creative placemaking, the practice of the intentional leveraging of arts and cultural strategies to address community issues and implement change, has a significant impact on mental health, including stigma, trauma, community-level stress, depression, substance use disorders and cultural identity.

A study on arts and community change by The Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP), a research group at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Social Policy & Practice, found that neighborhoods that employ arts and culture strategies “enjoy ‘spillover effects’ — including stronger community and civic engagement; better health, schooling, and personal security; and economic revitalization.”

Further stressing the importance of the arts and culture sector is the rather significant contributions it makes to U.S. economy as a whole.

According to a report by the the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the Office of Research & Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the arts and culture sector contributed more than $763 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, accounting for 4.2% of the nation’s GDP through 4.9 million jobs.

In 2016, revenue jumped to $804.2 billion, accounting for 4.3% of the nation’s GDP with employment totaling 5 million. In 2017, revenue from the sector jumped again, earning $877.8 billion, accounting for 4.5% of the nation’s GDP via 5.1 million jobs.

The sector has consistently grown with each year and the nation’s economic output has grown right alongside it.

Despite this, the sector has gone largely neglected by state and local agencies in their financial relief and recovery efforts for businesses during the pandemic. According to a report by Americans for the Arts, nationwide, the sector has experienced nearly $7 billion in losses.

The CARES Act only allocated $300 million to arts and culture organizations. Much like how Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were distributed through a network of banks and credit unions, the money to bail out the arts and culture sector was divided between seven major organizations, institutions and corporations to distribute to other smaller entities and individuals.

  • $75 million was given to the NEA
    • 40% of funds will be distributed to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations
    • 60% will go towards direct grants
  • $75 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
    • 40% of funds will be distributed to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations and
    • 60% will go towards direct grants
  • $75 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
    • Funds will be used to support public television and radio stations, particularly small and rural stations, which are expected
  • $50 million for the Institute of Library and Museum Sciences
    • Funds may be used to support libraries and museums, including assisting with expansion of digital network access, purchasing Internet accessible devices, and providing technical support services to their communities.
  • $25 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
    • Funds will be sued to to cover six months of salaries for current and furloughed employees and musicians
  • $7.5 million for the Smithsonian to cover
    • Funds will be used to cover salaries and other expenses while its museums are closed.

Alternative Resources Available For Artists and Organizations

Though the arts and culture sector may be going largely without financial assistance from many state and city budgets, independent organizations and arts patrons are banding together to lend a helping hand. Below is a list of just some of the grant opportunities available for organizations and individual artists:

  • The Austin Creative Alliance raised $85,000 in direct support for artists in the greater Austin, Texas, area with fundraising and tapping into money from its own reserves and fundraisers, as well as through donations from and campaigns with United Way for Greater Austin, the Austin Community Foundation, and the Bill Wood Foundation. Artists can apply for $500 to cover verifiable lost income; applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis. Priority will be given to ACA members and applicants dealing with instability around food or housing.
  • The Foundation for Contemporary Arts created the FCA Emergency Grants COVID-19 Fund to assist experimental artists struggling financially due to loss of income from postponed or cancelled performances and exhibitions. Applications are being accepted until September 1, 2020.
  • The Jersey City Arts Council, in partnership with the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation, created the Jersey City Relief Fund to help artists and arts organizations that have been directly impacted by COVID-19. Those encouraged to apply include, but are not limited to, visual artists, literary artists, performing artists, arts technicians, and organizations. Grant amounts of $500, $1,000 and $3,000 are available.
  • Artist Relief has a $10 million fund raised from dozens of foundations. From it, it is awarding grants of $5,000 to artists facing serious financial emergencies due to COVID-19. Artist Relief is an initiative that is a joint partnership between Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, National YoungArts Foundation and United States Artists.
  • The Cambridge Artists Relief Fund was created to meet immediate needs of arts and culture nonprofits, artists, and performers that have been affected by COVID-19. The Fund is collaboration between the Cambridge Community Foundation, the City and various donors. Though the Foundation is no longer receiving applications for the Fund, it has plans to protect, strengthen and sustain the city’s arts and culture sector, and to support creative placemaking, on an ongoing basis with the creation of the Cultural Capital Fund, which is now accepting donations.
  • Indie Theatre Fund’s Rapid Relief Grants is awarding micro grants of of up to $500 to companies, venues and individuals working within NYC independent theater, specifically in off-off broadway theater houses with 99 seats or less, that have budgets of under $250,000. The Fund is prioritizing applications from artists of color, LGBTQIA+, disabled and immigrant/undocumented artists.
  • The Individual Artists Emergency Relief Grant Fund, created by Arts Huntsville with a budget of $25,000, is awarding micro grants of $250 to $500 to help artists affected by COVID-19, including musicians, visual artists, writers, dancers and theatre artists, cover immediate expenses. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis and disbursed weekly. Donations for the fund are also being accepted on an ongoing basis.
  • The Indiana Music Industry Relief Fund was created to support Indiana-based women-identifying and non-binary musicians, music industry professionals and nonprofit music organizations experiencing loss of work, cancellations and loss of revenue due to COVID-19. The Fund is a partnership between MidWay Music Speaks and Girls Rock Bloomington. Grants are being distributed on a “first come, first serve” basis.
  • Arts Emergency Relief Fund, created by the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with he Durfee Foundation, and Community Partner, is now in its third round of applications. It’s awarding grants of $400 to $1,200 to provide relief to artists residing in the L.A. area that have been impacted by COVID-19. The deadline to apply is July 31, 2020.
  • The Colorado Artist Relief Fund is providing grants of up to $1,000 to Colorado artists experiencing loss of income from the cancellation of events, classes, performances and other creative work due to COVID-19. The Fund is a collaboration between RedLine, IMAGINE 2020 Artist Assistance Fund, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Colorado Creative Industries. Grants are being distributed on a rolling basis until August 2, 2020.

Kenny Sokan is a freelance writer at Gov1. She is a strong believer in the power of information and creative expression, which guides her in all of the work that she does. Kenny is a graduate of Northeastern University with a BA in journalism.