Arts & Leisure

Emergency grants help Vermont cultural orgs adapt

Vermont Humanities and the Vermont Arts Council have distributed $517,500 in emergency relief grants to 81 different Vermont cultural organizations, including museums, libraries, performing arts venues, and other cultural centers. Many of these organizations are right here in Addison County or serve local residents.
The grants support humanities and arts organizations that have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting economic downturn. With events, festivals, camps and summer seasons canceled, cultural organizations across Vermont are struggling to survive. Arts and cultural organizations who have applied for the grant have reported approximately $35.4 million in current and projected losses through 2020.
The COVID-19 Cultural Relief Grant Program, jointly managed by Vermont Humanities and the Arts Council, ended on May 31. Final application reviews and funding decisions are ongoing.
The John G. McCullough Free Library in North Bennington had to cancel its major fundraising event in April. The event usually helps the library weather “a really lean period in our finances, before appropriations from our supporting towns start to come in June,” said Library Director Jennie M. Rozycki. The library received $5,000 from the program. “We have ongoing expenses, even if our doors are closed,” Rozycki said, and the grant “helped us get through the tightest time.”
The Orleans County Historical Society, which operates the Old Stone House Museum in Brownington, received a $7,500 grant from the Cultural Relief Grant Program. “Our heritage and culture is kind of like a beacon to hold on to, and (helps us) relate back to a time that may have been simpler,” said Museum Executive Director Molly Veysey. The emergency relief grant will help the museum create online programming. “So much of what we do is place-based and in-person,” Veysey said. “Putting it online is a challenge, but one we’re up for, and one that Vermont Humanities has really helped us out with.”
Vermont’s creative sector provides more than 40,000 jobs annually and comprises 9.3% of all employment in Vermont, higher than the national average. “We are proud to be supporting the many key cultural institutions that define Vermont for so many locals and visitors alike,” said Vermont Humanities Executive Director Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup.
“Organizations like the Old Stone House Museum, the Rokeby in Ferrisburgh, Hildene in Manchester, and the Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre are keys to the Vermont identity and emblematic of our state motto, Freedom and Unity,” Ilstrup continued. “Without them, much of Vermont’s story, especially the stories of working people and people of color, would remain untold and we would be poorer for it. This CARES Act funding will help to keep these organizations alive.”
The COVID-19 Cultural Relief Grant Program provides awards for general operating expenses of $5,000 to $10,000 depending on organization size. It is seeded by more than $700,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
Kaufman Ilstrup noted that while most of the money available from the NEH and NEA for the Vermont Cultural Relief Grant Program has already been allocated, the need far outstrips the available funds.
“While we are grateful for the CARES Act funds, we know they only begin to meet the needs in our devastated arts and culture sector,” said Karen Mittelman, executive director of the Arts Council. “The organizations that have applied for Cultural Relief grants are projecting more than $32 million in financial losses by the end of 2020. Vermont can’t afford not to invest in arts and cultural organizations right now — they are at the heart of so many of our communities. We need the inspiration and insight of our artists, poets, writers, and thinkers to help us to come back together and heal when the worst of this pandemic is behind us.”
Among the recipients of the cultural grants were: Bixby Memorial Free Library, Vergennes, $5,000; Brandon Free Public Library, Brandon, $5,000; Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra, Middlebury, $5,000; Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, Middlebury, $7,500; Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, $5,000; Middlebury Studio School, $5,000; Rokeby Museum, Ferrisburgh, $5,000; Ruth Stone Foundation, Goshen, $5,000; and Town Hall Theater, Middlebury, $10,000.
For a complete list of the recipients of emergency relief grants, visit vermonthumanities.org/c19-grants.

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