Alameda County announces relief grant program for cultural, arts nonprofits

Dr. Dave Weiland/Courtesy
The Alameda County Arts Relief Grant Program will distribute grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 to arts and cultural organizations.

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Alameda County announced the creation of the Alameda County Arts Relief Grant Program on Oct. 30, which will provide funds to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, financed by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and managed by the Alameda County Arts Commission, or ACAC, will grant up to $900,000 to support organizations that provide services ranging from visual arts and theater to literature and music, according to an ACAC press release. Applications for the grants, which range from $5,000 to $25,000, are due Nov. 20.

“The Arts Relief Grant Program for Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations supports the role that arts play in getting us through this pandemic,” said Rachel Osajima, ACAC director. “They’re also an important part of our economy. One out of ten jobs in California are connected to the arts industry.”

Sharon Dolan, executive director of Freight and Salvage, a musical performance venue and nonprofit, said in an email that Bay Area artists and cultural workers are being forced out because of monetary struggles and are in desperate need of financial aid.

Dolan added that while the relief grants are appreciated, they are only a “short-term fix.”

“We especially need the transformative power of the arts in times of crisis and change–of which now is certainly one,” Dolan said in the email. “But the arts are hit harder than any other industry, and will be the last thing to come back. So the $25k is great, but what we need is about that amount every week.”

Jim Tibbs, Berkeley Symphony executive director, said the pandemic has lasted much longer than initially anticipated, which has severely impacted organizations such as the Berkeley Symphony that depend on live performances and full audiences.

According to Tibbs, funding from Alameda County via the grant program would help organizations including the Berkeley Symphony cover the costs of general operations.

“The arts is a way of nurturing the soul and providing people with some relief and a sense of hope that things will get better,” Tibbs said. “The organizations that will benefit from this funding are part of the recovery effort to help the community recover from this incredible trauma.”

Rachel Long, development consultant for the Youth Musical Theater Company, echoed these sentiments, referencing the loss of revenue due to canceled shows and reduced tuition payments. Many actors, directors and designers have lost their jobs, which has negatively impacted their mental health, she added.

The grant program will help arts and cultural organizations stay “sustainable” during the pandemic, Long said.

“The arts have been the one thing that people have missed so greatly,” Long said. “It’s what we’ve turned to for our own sanity and mental health. We miss it so much and we’re just waiting until we can do it again.”

Contact Samantha Lim at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sssamanthalim