Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stimulus, Round 2

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is now law, and not surprisingly, the Arts Sector is "first out of the gate." Because of conservative reactions to having the Arts included at all in the Stimulus Bill, the National Endowment for the Arts is not only acting incredibly efficiently, but they have developed clear and consistent language for us to use in describing how we all are to use whatever we receive from their (63/10,000ths of 1%) share of the total $789 billion stimulus package.

Thus, funding for the Arts from ARRA, by way of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is "to help preserve jobs in the non-profit Arts field." This means that if you represent an arts organization and are eligble to apply for some of the NEA's funds, your application must address how funds will be used to retain or restore jobs.

While there may be dozens, if not hundreds of ways for your organization to tap funds from ARRA through non-arts sources (by going through your local chamber of commerce, downtown program, planning commission, select-board, state senator or house-member, or US Congressional Representative), there are only three ways to access the $50 million that was set aside for the NEA.

The first is to apply for funds directly to the NEA. To be eligible you must have received a grant from the NEA within the last four years (a grant whose number begins with an "06-" or later). According to the NEA, there are only eighteen Vermont organizations who are so eligible. The deadline for applications to NEFA is April 2; approval by the National Council on June 28th, and notification shortly thereafter.

Th second is to apply for funds from the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), the NEA's regional arts partner. As of this writing, NEFA's program and deadlines are still under development, but their application deadline will probably be no earlier than late April, and approval probably not until early to mid-June. They are still working out the specifics of their eligibility requirements, but it is sure to include organizations that already have an existing program relationship with NEFA through the New England States Touring (NEST) program, or the National Dance Project, etc. NEFA will, of course, be issuing its own guidelines and application forms soon (in concert with the other New England States), so stay tuned. Total funds available for New England Arts Organizations is expected to be between $250,000 and $300,000.

The third is to apply for support from the Vermont Arts Council, the NEA's state arts partner. Though our plans still have to receive final approval from our Trustees, we expect our "Art Jobs Program" (a title that NEFA and the New England States have decided to call our collective effort to push ARRA Funds out to the field) to have a deadline of May 8, 2009, with grant notification by July 31, 2009. Funds may be used between August 1, 2009 and August 30, 2010, with final reports required no later than September 30, 2010. Grant amounts will be $5,000 for organizations with annual budgets under $150,000 and up to $10,000 for organizations with annual budgets of $150,000 or more. Total funds available is expected to be not more than $250,000.

Although any Vermont 501(c)(3) arts organization may apply for funds, we expect to place a priority on applications that serve underserved communities, are for educational purposes, and/or retain the services of those who provide marketing and outreach for their organizations. Furthermore, we expect to put a priority on applications from organizations that regularly collaborate with other organizations and thus broaden their reach and expand their audience while at the same time sharing costs.

Here is the kicker. For those of you reading this who are eligible for all three funding streams, you may apply to all three, but you will only get a grant from one. Thus, if you apply for support from the NEA, you should also apply for support from NEFA and from the Arts Council. That way, if you don't receive NEA funding, you will not have missed either the NEFA or Arts Council deadline in the meantime. The good news is that we are working diligently to craft application forms and narrative questions that closely follow the NEA's forms. Filling out all three will not be that much more work.

There is a lot of activity at the Council right now related to the Stimulus Bill. But that's not all we're working on...

Perhaps the most urgent thing for you to take action on right now (aside from gearing up for a stimulating application to the NEA, NEFA, or the Arts Council), is to call your state legislators and urge them to become part of our soon-to-be-formed "Legislative Arts Caucus." E-mail and snail-mail invitations to an organizational breakfast at the Council next Friday (the 20th) are on their way to your legislators this week. Click here to contact your state legislators by email.

There's a lot more related to Arts Achievement Day (March 25th), the Listening Tour to which we have added one more stop (this Friday, March 13, 4 pm, at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction), and our ongoing programs and services, that I could share with you. But in the interest of time and space, I'll stop here.

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