This article was contributed by the San Benito County Arts Council.
Recognizing the essential roles of “artists as second responders,” who help us recover, reflect and rebuild following times of crisis, and the equally vital role that the broader arts community plays in the local and regional creative economy, the San Benito County Arts Council’s COVID Arts Relief Grant Program was designed to uplift the local arts sector through direct funding. Grant funds will be applied to rent, salaries, internet services and other overhead costs.
Grantees from the first grant category, designed to fund arts organizations that serve and represent communities of color which have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, include El Teatro Campesino, Animation Dance Community, Folklorico Juvenil and JMM Dance Co. Funding for this grant program came from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act through the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and the California Arts Council, a state agency.
Sammy Ramirez and Lisa Malzone Morales from the Animation Dance Community (ADC) state, “Animation Dance Community stands so grateful to SBC Arts Council as another stay-at-home order left us feeling utterly defeated. We absolutely love what we get to do: infusing youth with confidence through movement and artistic expression, having a safe space for the young to discover their best selves and providing fun in its purest form. But under the safety guidelines of COVID, our community sustained unavoidable disconnects. The COVID Arts Relief Grant will allow us to exist and update our space so no one will feel at risk, ever. It will allow us to reach more virtually and prepare for the day we can all be together again.”
Grantees from the second grant category, which more broadly funded arts organizations and arts-based businesses in San Benito County, include the Aromas Hills Artisans, Terra Cultura, San Benito Stage Company, Flying Colors Dance and Fitness and San Benito Dance Academy. Funding for this grant program was made possible with support from the Community Foundation for San Benito County.
Amy Redmond Warren from Flying Colors Dance and Fitness states, “Unlike many businesses, I don’t have a product that can be ordered and picked up. My product is my service and connection with my students inside a classroom. With today’s technology, virtual classes are an option and a service that we have continued to provide, however with most students in San Benito County already participating in distance learning, dance students are not interested in participating in yet another activity online. Zoom fatigue is a real thing, and is negatively affecting businesses like mine.”
Warren continues, “My only hope is to hold onto our brick and mortar location long enough to make it to a time when things will get better, and it will be safe to operate indoors in a way that is representative of the quality of dance education we want to provide. The money the Arts Council has granted us will help us to pay our rent and utilities, allowing us to keep our beautiful dance space.”
While grant funds provide immediate and necessary financial support, the local arts sector continues to need assistance. According to Americans for the Arts, arts organizations have seen over $14.5 billion in economic loss this year, two-thirds of the arts and creative workforces are unemployed and creativity-based income loss has reached over $50.6 billion. Moreover, with the majority of California’s arts and cultural organizations being closed for the last ten months, many are facing existential threats. Organizations like Californians for the Arts, where Arts Council Executive Director Jennifer Laine serves as a board member and co-chair of the Programs Committee, is working with elected officials to develop reopening guidelines for the arts sector and also on several initiatives to activate and employ creative industries in service of public health and other public-led campaigns.
For more information about the COVID Art Relief Grant Program, or to learn more about the Arts Council, please contact them at [email protected] or call at (831) 636-2787. You may also visit www.sanbenitoarts.org or follow them on Facebook/Instagram.