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Ohio arts programs get boosts in funding from budget, grants, ARPA




Arts programs in Ohio are seeing much-needed funding boosts with budget provisions and federal grants bringing in new ways for them to stay on the stage.

The Ohio Arts Council, a state agency that provides financial assistance through grants and services to organizations and individuals in the arts, received more than $50 million in funding from the most recent budget bill.

Donna Collins, executive director of the council, testified before the Ohio House Finance Committee, praised the resilience of the arts community for surviving a pandemic-hampered few years, and urged the General Assembly to continue their support, which was $40 million in the previous operating budget.

“Ongoing research indicates the economic impact of the arts in Ohio is immense – and had grown steadily before the pandemic,” Collins said.

She cited a study done in conjunction with Bowling Green State University in which researchers found the art sector “contributed nearly $41 billion to the state’s economy” and generated about $4.6 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues.

Another study, done by the arts council itself, showed 91% of Ohioans polled wanted public funds to be directed toward the arts.

But the arts community is still recovering from the pandemic losses, according to Collins.

“Today, challenges linger, particularly for small and mid-sized nonprofits, as audiences have yet to fully return, but the arts and cultural sector has generally perservered and found ways to thrive,” Collins told the finance committee as they deliberated about the budget.

In a 2021 annual report, the arts council said they were forced to take a $3 million funding reduction and freeze new contracts, travel and hiring, along with reducing pay and expenses.

Ohio Citizens for the Arts conducted a pandemic impact report in 2021 as well, which asked performers for organizations like BalletMet and the Great Lakes Theater about their financial status as COVID-19 restrictions and closures bore down on the state. The survey found significant unemployment issues and monetary deficits creating a monumental struggle for artists and organizations alike.

Federal funding came in to help ease some of the struggle at the arts council, with $20 million directed from the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in 2020.

“Critically, these funds supported arts non-profits of all sizes and genres throughout Ohio, reaching nearly 300 organizations,” the annual report stated.

But the OCA at the time said they found a much bigger, $70 million gap in funding that was created by the pandemic.

More recently, another $20 million in federal funds were directed from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, in the form of grants to more than 100 arts-based organizations, according to an announcement by the governor’s office.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s office said the grants were the second round of the “Ohio Arts Economic Relief Grant Program,” which brought $43 million in grants to 243 organizations, all entirely funded by federal monies.

“The grants announced today will help pay for employee compensation, excluding bonuses; employee recruitment, rehiring and training expenses; rent or mortgage payments; and operating costs,” the announcement stated.

The Ohio Arts Council is also looking to a national grant to bring new programming to the state, specifically for older adults.

The council announced on July 10 that $95,000 in grant funding from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies will allow them to bring “creative aging programs” to the state through the “Building Bridges to Sustained Communities project,” according to a council statement. Ohio is one of nine states receiving grants from the NASAA.

With the program, the council said it would “provide additional professional development for teaching artists and organization staffs serving the needs of older Ohioans, support direct programming to older adult audiences in the form of artist residences and continue to cultivate creative aging partnerships and develop a creative aging community of practice in Ohio.”

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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