City of Berkeley offers grants to local arts nonprofits to aid recovery

photo of the Berkeley Art Center
David McAllister /Senior Staff
The city of Berkeley is allocating $2 million to the arts community for pandemic recovery, $1.7 million of which are being distributed to local nonprofits in the form of grants.

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The city of Berkeley is offering one-time grants to local arts nonprofits and festivals to aid in their pandemic recovery.

The grants, ranging from $3,000 to $33,000, are intended to help local organizations mitigate financial losses from the pandemic, implement COVID-19 safety protocols and market their new programs to rebuild their audience, according to Jennifer Lovvorn, chief cultural affairs officer of the city’s Civic Arts Program.

“The pandemic was really devastating for the arts community because a lot of what they do relies on gathering,” Lovvorn said.

Any Berkeley arts nonprofits that have operated in Berkeley since January 2019 are eligible to apply, as are recurring festivals which occurred at least twice in the city prior to January 2020.

The grant program was also met with appreciation from members of the art community.

“I think the big narrative whenever budget cuts happen, especially here in the Bay Area, is that we really underestimate how much art is vital to community health,” said Kim Acebo Arteche, co-director of Berkeley Art Center. “For us to get this kind of support from the city means the city is investing in us.”

Many local artists and performers are also service workers in industries like hospitality and retail that were especially hard-hit by the pandemic, Acebo Arteche added.

Applications will be scored and ranked based on a set of scoring criteria, the largest part of which is based on cultural equity. While organizations meeting these equity criteria will receive more grant money, Lovvorn said that all applicants who meet eligibility requirements for the grant program will be given some award.

“The intention set by the federal language, in addition to the city of Berkeley’s own vision statement and strategic plan goals around cultural equity values, both aligned and we wanted to be really intentional around making sure these funds would reach those communities that have been disproportionately impacted (by the pandemic),” Lovvorn said.

She added that currently, the city does not have many applicants for this round of grants and is encouraging more arts and cultural organizations to submit applications before the Dec. 9 deadline.

Of the $66 million given to the city of Berkeley for pandemic recovery through the federal American Rescue Plan act, $2 million was allocated toward supporting local art of which $1.7 million will be distributed through the current round of grants, according to Lovvorn. In the future, the city intends to open up another round of grants with the remaining $300,000 which will be open to individual artists rather than organizations, Lovvorn said.

“We are mindful to make sure we are supporting artists and supporting the artists’ economy first and foremost,” Acebo Arteche said.

Contact Riya Chopra at [email protected].