File: Sue Higby
"Youth Triumphant" sculpture in Barre
The Vermont Arts Council
and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development will distribute $5 million to arts and culture nonprofits, as part of legislation
signed by Gov. Phil Scott last week to provide $96 million in emergency economic recovery grants to Vermont businesses.
Applications opened Monday on the ACCD website
for all the agency’s Economic Recovery Grants. Arts and culture nonprofits are eligible for up to $50,000 in funding. The arts council will partner with ACCD to review the applications.
“It’s an incredible boost for the nonprofit cultural sector,” said Karen Mittelman, executive director of the arts council. “It’s important as a recognition of the economic stress our sector is experiencing … And we also know it will not be enough. That’s true across the board [in every sector].”
When Mittelman, Catamount Arts
executive director Jody Fried and Vermont Humanities
executive director Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup began lobbying the legislature for relief funding, they originally asked for $50 million, Mittelman said.
“We’re kind of absorbing the long-term reality of this, and trying to come to terms with, What does that mean?
It’s going to require new thinking about economic relief,” she said. “It’s really hard to say how much is going to be enough, [and] for how long.”
The organizations estimated that losses for 2020 across the creative sector, including both nonprofit and for-profit organizations, would surpass $50 million. Nonprofits alone have reported $36.8 million in current and projected losses. According to the arts council, Vermont’s creative sector provides 9.3 percent of the state’s jobs, employing more than 40,000 people annually.
“Those organizations are economic engines and anchors for their communities,” Mittelman said. If one closes down, “there’s an economic ripple effect throughout the community and throughout the region.”
She also made the point to the legislature that many historic organizations, such as theaters, exist today as a result of significant public and private investment in restoration and preservation.
“This is an investment that Vermonters have made over years. All of our investments in the cultural infrastructure are in jeopardy,” Mittelman said. “We can’t turn our backs on them now.”
The Vermont Arts Council, together with Vermont Humanities, began distributing $700,000 in grants from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act earlier this spring. Ten Vermont organizations also received direct relief grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.
Mittelman said she has already been inundated with calls about how to apply for the grants. To qualify, organizations must prove that they have faced a 50 percent or greater reduction in revenue due to the pandemic during a single month between March and September, as compared to that same month last year.
Tax-deductible charitable contributions don't count for these calculations. For-profit arts and culture businesses may not apply for the designated $5 million, but they can apply on the ACCD website for a standard business grant.
The arts council has posted an FAQ page
about the process. The grants are first come, first served.