$3 million in CARES Acts grants awarded to Oklahoma arts and cultural organizations
OKC Ballet Under the Stars at Scissortail Park on the Love's Travel Stops Stage and a special performance by Chase Kerby afterwards, Friday, October 9, 2020. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

$3 million in CARES Acts grants awarded to Oklahoma arts and cultural organizations 

OKLAHOMA – Nearly 170 organizations serving 48 Oklahoma communities will receive a share of $3 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

Administered as Oklahoma Arts and Cultural Industry Relief Grants by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the funding was made available to the arts and cultural sector by Gov. Kevin Stitt, according to a news release.

The funding will bolster organizations whose arts programs are vital to economic development, quality of life and education in Oklahoma as they weather the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

As previously reported, the one-time grants were available statewide to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, museums, historical societies, colleges and universities, public libraries, tribal nations, and departments of city and county government that present arts programming.

The funding must be used toward eligible expenses resulting from the pandemic, including payroll for staff members serving as COVID-19 coordinators, distance learning, interruption of business, personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfectant and sanitization, public safety measures and other costs to safely open facilities to the public.

Grant amounts were approved by the governor-appointed Oklahoma Arts Council board during a meeting Tuesday. Funding was prioritized for organizations with arts-based missions that serve geographically isolated areas, under-resourced communities, culturally diverse populations, and underrepresented groups.

“Since the Governor’s announcement of this investment in our industry three weeks ago, Oklahoma Arts Council staff has worked round-the-clock to ensure the funding could save jobs and stabilize as many nonprofits and other essential organizations across the state arts and cultural industry as possible,” said Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples in a statement. “The grant awards we have announced today are a meaningful part of what we hope will be a commitment by state leaders to assuring the long-term health of the state arts sector as it fights to bounce back from the pandemic.”

Oklahoma’s creative sector, which relies heavily on in-person fundraising and event-generated earned income has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A report released in July by Richard Florida, noted scholar and author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” estimated pandemic-related losses of 19,000 jobs and $606 million in sales in Oklahoma’s creative sector, with the performing and fine arts being disproportionately affected.

Although the arts have been at the forefront of innovating and adopting technology in their efforts to continue providing Oklahomans with arts education and access to the arts during the pandemic, the inherent nature of the arts to bring people together forced organizations to be among the first to close their doors, and it dictates that they be among the last to reopen.

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