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Announcing the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund

by Arts Midwest

Two people stand next to each other and play different types of wooden flutes.
Photo Credit: Shigeyo Henriquez
Manhu ensemble member Wang Tao and local musician Keith Bear from the Fort Berthold Reservation exchange flutes during Manhu's World Fest residency in Dickinson, ND.

With support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations are launching a $10m national COVID-19 relief and resilience grant program.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation today announced $10 million in emergency grants to six United States Regional Arts Organizations (RAOs) to help launch a new United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund to support small to midsized arts organizations across the country. The COVID-19 crisis has created unprecedented financial obstacles for the arts, with some estimates placing losses for the sector at $6.8 billion — the equivalent of a 26 percent deficit for organizations in the field over the course of just one year. Losses of that magnitude will have a sweeping effect on the arts and culture landscape across the nation.

To help mitigate the financial threat to the sector, the new fund will support small and midsized arts organizations in all artistic disciplines that are regarded by their peers as having statewide, regional, or national impact. The fund will also prioritize organizations that are most at risk during this crisis, including historically under-resourced organizations, as well as those serving under-resourced populations, communities, and/or art forms. The $10 million in grants from the Mellon Foundation will provide initial funding for the project and is part of the Foundation’s COVID-19 response — a $200 million effort on top of its $300 million originally planned for 2020 — to sustain the arts and humanities during this international crisis. The fund represents the first time that the six RAOs have collaborated to develop and implement a national program.

“During times of darkness, the arts illuminate our shared humanity. When we’re socially distant and facing adversity, the arts bind us all together. They deliver a sense of community at a time when we’ve never been farther apart. Protecting the arts and culture sector, particularly small and midsized organizations, during this crisis is absolutely imperative, and this new grant and resiliency fund aims to do just that. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action, and the Mellon Foundation is proud to work with partners in every corner of America to establish this new fund. We have an important goal: to preserve these critical organizations and ensure a fuller American story is told today — and tomorrow.”

Elizabeth Alexander, President, Mellon Foundation

The United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund being launched with initial funding from Mellon will be administered by each of the six RAOs — a national collective of place-based nonprofit arts service organizations — Arts Midwest, Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA), Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), South Arts, and the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF). The RAOs have long-standing partnerships with state arts agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other public and private funders and service organizations, collaborating on programs and services that strengthen America’s access to creativity, arts, and culture. The RAOs are currently disseminating approximately $4.5 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding on behalf of the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The arts community is central to the fabric of humanity, and this new fund will help thousands make significant strides during these challenging times,” said Susie Surkamer, Executive Director of South Arts who is currently chair of the US Regional Arts Organizations. “The United States Regional Arts Organizations stand united to provide critical support to arts organizations throughout the country as we work toward the long-term resiliency of our industry, and we look forward to working with the Mellon Foundation to ensure that arts and culture around the United States remain vibrant in the aftermath of this pandemic.”

The Mellon grants to the RAOs range from $1.27 million to $1.97 million and are determined by a formula based on population size and number of states served. Grants to individual arts organizations are expected to range from $10,000 to $100,000. Each RAO will develop a nomination/screening process according to the following criteria:

  • Exceptional artistic, cultural, and community impact
  • Visionary leadership
  • Demonstrated community engagement and support
  • Statewide, regional, or national impact
  • Commitment to equity and inclusion
  • Geographic distribution of awards: urban/rural, within a given region
  • Track record of stability in fiscal management and ongoing operations

The application process, which will be available on their respective websites, will be straightforward and streamlined. Application deadlines are as early as June 30, 2020; check with each RAO for details. Funds are expected to be deployed in mid-summer 2020.

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