Local Arts Organizations Get Boost from COVID-19 Relief Grants

Dozens of local artists and arts-oriented organizations got welcome news last week when ArtsFairfax announced the recipients of $567,138 in emergency relief and recovery grants on Jan. 15.

A nonprofit that serves as Fairfax County’s designated local arts agency, ArtsFairfax created an Emergency Relief and Recovery Grants program in order to provide quick funding to an industry that has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program comes in lieu of the agency’s usual grant programs, which were suspended for fiscal year 2021.

“The impact of COVID-19 continues to have a devastating effect on the arts community, yet we have seen the arts continue to provide arts education, senior engagement, family entertainment and so much more,” ArtsFairfax president and CEO Linda S. Sullivan said.

Out of the $108,500 in funding requests that it received, ArtsFairfax has awarded $101,950 in emergency relief grants to 40 different Fairfax County arts organizations. It also raised private funds to support $28,300 in grants to 29 individual artists.

In addition, 39 arts organizations will receive operating support grants for FY 2021. These funds are awarded annually to nonprofit arts organizations in Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church to support basic operations.

ArtsFairfax is awarding $436,888 in operating support grants for this fiscal year after receiving $913,933 in requests from 39 different organizations.

“The arts will be a vital part of our health and economic recovery,” Sullivan said. “We need to support the arts today, so they are here for us tomorrow.”

With in-person performances and exhibitions largely suspended for the past year, the pandemic has taken a significant toll on the American arts and culture industry.

The nonprofit Americans for the Arts estimates that, as of Jan. 11, arts and cultural organizations have lost $14.8 billion nationally as a result of COVID-19. 63% of workers in the arts sector have become unemployed, and 95% have reported a loss of income.

According to a dashboard from Americans for the Arts, nonprofit arts organizations in Fairfax County have reported a median financial loss of $30,000 for a total impact of $4.3 million, though that is based on a small sample size of 55 respondents.

The McLean Project for the Arts is one of several organizations to get both an emergency relief grant and an operating support grant from ArtsFairfax. The grants combine for more than $30,000, according to MPA Director of Communications and Public Affairs Deborah Bissen.

“ArtsFairfax’s grants were essential during 2020, as COVID-19 so greatly affected us and our local community,” MPA Executive Director Lori Carbonneau said in a statement. “ArtsFairfax’s support was and continues to be an essential bridge in continuing our operations, particularly as the support we generally have received from the business community was down 95 percent from the previous year.”

The Vienna Choral Society says that the emergency relief grant it received from ArtsFairfax enabled it to defray the costs of producing its first virtual performance in November, a process that included technical training and weekly rehearsals.

“Like many arts orgs, Vienna Choral Society (VCS) saw half its season disappear in an instant in March 2020,” VCS Executive Director Sohini Baliga said. “No matter how assiduously you cultivate a rainy day fund, no one plans for a pandemic-induced financial standstill with no end in sight. The emergency relief grant fund gave us breathing room so we could pivot, adapt, and embrace the new virtual reality of performance.”

Other organizations in the Tysons area that received an ArtsFairfax grant include:

Emergency Relief Grant (* indicates organizations also got an operations support grant)

Operating Support Grant

A full list of ArtsFairfax grant recipients can be found on the nonprofit’s website.

Photo courtesy ArtsFairfax

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