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Ohio Arts council hands out COVID funds

Last week, Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta was informed that it will receive $48,200 in federal coronavirus stimulus funds (CARES Act) through the Ohio Arts Council.

Hunt Brawley, executive director of the theater, explained Friday that those dollars were a welcome surprise before the holiday week as the venue looks to pay down its debt, keep the utility bills current and plan for further streaming events online while awaiting permeation of a coronavirus vaccine and holding onto the hope of a summer event season.

But what about other local arts organizations, government entities and nonprofits who didn’t receive the stimulus?

Was Southeast Ohio purposefully left out of support?

The Ohio Arts Council says no, and in fact, the goal is to get more state arts funding to this part of the state.

“But in (some) parts of Southeast Ohio people are really prejudicial against government funding or have some fear or distrust or whatever it is,” mused Brawley. “But it’s, it’s kind of amazing how reluctant so many organizations are in seeking some of the state funding.”

Ohio Arts Council Public Affairs Director Justin Nigro wants to help change that perception and encourage those wanting to learn how to apply for other state aid while the state agency has its eyes on Southeast Ohio.

“I understand the hesitation,” said Nigro. “(But) we don’t think of it as a punitive relationship. We think of it as a way for both of our organizations to win … We have been very flexible with our funding, and really pride ourselves on being accessible in that way. So even some grantees who have had to change gears because they were planning a series of performances indoors, or having with them outside organizations who have had to cancel programming, we found a way to make it work, make our grants work.”

Nigro said Southeast Ohio is where innovation has been demonstrated by more than “traditional” arts organizations.

“The Vinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, they’ve done a ‘Midnight at Moonville’ event in the past few years … with music, storytelling, arts and crafts,” Nigro gave as an example. “(They’re) not necessarily an arts organization, but they do work in the arts … Over in Noble County, their chamber of commerce puts on the Appalachian Foothills Fall Festival. And again, craft vendors, music and a celebration of their heritage … So you could be a CVB, you could be a chamber of commerce, you could be a school, a school district or a parochial school, in the area, and we have art education programs and teaching artists to provide our education to children and we fund all those types of activities … We want to be funding organizations all over the state, but especially in eastern and southeastern Ohio.”

He said any organization, government entity or nonprofit looking for guidance is welcome to reach out to the southeast Ohio representative for the council, Brianna Dance. Dance may be reached via email (brianna.dance@oac.ohio.gov) or by calling 614-728-4427.

Upcoming deadlines for funding include Dec. 1 for the council’s Capacity Building grant program, which often serves as a foot-in-the-door to first-time applicants.

“That is a program that kind of focuses on your internal organization’s development,” Nigro explained. “So things like developing a board or technology improvements so that you can go virtual with your programming (or) if you need to do staff training or feasibility studies to see if you can expand a program.”

That slow growth is one which Brawley encouraged.

“In a lot of ways you have to walk before you run. I think that’s the first thing, just get some presence and actually do something,” he said.

See future editions of the Times for explanations on other grant opportunities and application tips with the Ohio Arts Council.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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