An Update on RISCA’s FY21 Grants & Programming

Dear Friends:

As you know, we are all living through unprecedented times. This crisis requires that we reflect on what we do – and have done for decades – to support the Rhode Island arts community. It causes us to ask whether what we have done best serves the needs of artists and cultural workers in the midst of a pandemic.

Our Council met last week, and made some major decisions about grants and programs for the current fiscal year. The State of Rhode Island has yet to pass a budget for the fiscal year that started on July 1, 2020. Without a budget, we are unable to announce or award any grants. It is now clear that the earliest we may have a state budget is mid-November, and it seems increasingly possible that all state agencies (the Arts Council included) will experience major budget cuts, given that the State currently has an estimated $835 million budget shortfall.

Throughout this crisis, RISCA staff have been communicating with our constituents to assess the needs of the field during this unusual and difficult year.

With all of this as context, our Council has decided to make these temporary changes.

October Grant Deadline

We will not have an October 1 grant application deadline this year. Once a state budget has been enacted we will re-assess our grant programs, but for now we will continue to pause all grant making.

April 2020 Grant Deadline

For those of you who applied to RISCA for a grant back in April of this year, we know that you are anxiously awaiting some notification of the results. For the majority of RISCA’s grant programs, we are holding out hope that a budget will be passed that will allow us to award the grants as recommended by our panels and Council. If we experience reductions in funding that will need to be reflected in any grants we award. In any case, you will need to wait until a budget is passed and signed by the Governor before we will be able to announce any grant awards.

We’ve heard a great deal from the individual artist community about their needs during this challenging time. Based on what we’ve heard we’ve made the difficult decision to NOT award grants in our Project Grants for Individuals and Fellowships in Craft, Film & Video, Fiction, Poetry, Play and Screenwriting, Photography, and Three-Dimensional Art categories FOR THIS YEAR ONLY. We recognize these applications have been prepared, submitted, and have gone through the panel review process. We hope we can redirect this funding to grants, programs and services for individuals that are more responsive to the current challenges our individual artists and cultural workers face. Feel free to reach out to Mollie (mollie.flanagan@arts.ri.gov) for more information on this decision.

What’s Next- Education

Applicants at the April 1, 2020 deadline to Project Grants in Education who were recommended for funding by the panel will receive an award contingent upon funds available following the passage of the FY21 State budget. There will not be a Project Grants in Education application in October 2020. We have suspended the second PGE grant cycle due to the delay in the passage of a State budget. Schools, organizations and teaching artists that regularly apply for this funding are encouraged to reach out to Maggie Anderson (maggie.anderson@arts.ri.gov) for consultation.

What’s Next- Folk & Traditional Arts

Applicants at the April 1, 2020 deadline Folk Arts Apprenticeship & Fellowship Grants who were recommended for funding by the panel will receive an award contingent upon funds available following the passage of the FY21 State budget.

What’s Next- Organizations

Organizations Program Director Todd Trebour is in active conversation with organizations about their needs right now. For this reason, the status of awards to applicants recommended for funding by the panel at the April 15th, 2020 deadline for Arts Access Grants will be determined once the state budget has passed. For organizations in our Investments in Arts and Culture general operating support program, grants awards will be made contingent upon funds available following the passage of the FY21 budget.

The October 1st deadline for Arts Access is suspended. Whether or not there is another organizational grant deadline this fiscal year is contingent on the state budget. If there is a second deadline, it will likely be a modified Arts Access Grant program that will speak to the needs of arts and culture organizations in RI at this moment. Depth of programming in Todd’s portfolio will depend on whether or not there are staff furloughs, their length of time, and their severity. For now, there will be 2-3 Peer Support Calls for Arts and Culture Organizations per month from September – November.

What’s Next- Individuals

In place of the typical grant programs, there will be expanded programming for individual artists and an intention to support additional Artist Relief Fund grants and possible a Technology Grant contingent upon funds available following the passing of the FY21 State budget. Programming will begin in October, and will be focused on supporting arts specific business training and artist peer support as artists and culture workers adapt to the pandemic. Beginning the week of October 8th, there will be bi-weekly Artist Peer Support zoom calls. These will be facilitated by a local artist around a specific topic. Beginning on Tuesday, October 6th, Mollie will be teaching a virtual Business Basics course. This eleven week, sequential learning course is focused on the legal and tax formalities of starting and operating a small business, as well as bookkeeping, marketing, and intellectual property specifically for folks working in the arts. These classes will be available live, but will also be recorded and posted to RISCA’s website – more information coming in the next week. Finally, since there are so many major changes to individual artist grants and programs, Mollie is hosting a Zoom conversation about this on Thursday, September 24th from noon-1pm. Please join her with all your questions, concerns, and ideas for this challenging year.

Help RISCA Help the Arts – Two Important Surveys by September 18th

Dear Friend:

We are living through an unprecedented time. Like many organizations, RISCA is thinking about what we do and how we can better support the RI arts and culture community. This may involve continuing to provide the programs and services on which you depend. It may also involve reimagining our work so that it is of greater assistance during this unique period.

We know you have been asked to do many surveys. We have resisted the urge to bombard you with surveys, and have only asked you to complete one survey (so far) that directly supported federal advocacy efforts by Americans for the Arts. Today, we are asking arts and culture organizations to complete two surveys by September 18th. This quick turnaround time is important as we will immediately review and make use of the data to support the work of state and federal policy-makers.

RISCA’s Organizational Support in the time of COVID-19 Survey (17 questions; estimated time to complete survey: 20 minutes with assembled information). The primary purpose of this survey is to understand the financial impact of the pandemic on your organization. We understand these questions are sensitive, but we need to ask them as they will support our continued efforts to access public support for arts and culture organizations. Your responses will be confidential. Outside of RISCA staff, the data collected from this survey will only be shared in anonymous aggregate. See survey and instructions here – you will want to read over the questions and instructions to see what information you need before completing it.

RI Nonprofits and COVID-19: A Survey on Organizational Impacts, Needs, and Supports (21 questions; estimated time to complete survey: 20 minutes). The purpose of this survey is for RISCA and other partners to understand the impact of the pandemic on the entire Rhode Island nonprofit ecosystem.

This survey is a partnership with Grantmakers Council of RI, Fio Partners, RISCA, and other RI-based funders. Many community partners are distributing this survey, so if you receive multiple invitations to complete it, you only need to do so once (we will be sharing response data). As funding organizations are considering how to best support the nonprofit sector through grants, technical assistance, and learning, we want to make sure arts and culture organizations needs are included in their assessment. See survey and instructions here.

We have crafted these surveys to complement each other and not duplicate questions. In a few cases, RISCA’s survey digs deeper on a related question asked in the RI Nonprofits survey.

It’s important to remind everyone that we do not – as of early September – have a state budget for the fiscal year that started on July 1st. We have no idea what the state budget will look like, but we do know that the State of Rhode Island is facing significant financial challenges. This, too, will have an impact on what we are able to do to support the Rhode Island arts and culture community.

For now, please stay safe! We value and appreciate all that you contribute to the cultural life of our state.

Sincerely,
Randall Rosenbaum

RISCA Commits to Improving Communications for the Arts Sector – New Position Made Possible Through Federal Funding

With funding support from our federal partners at the National Endowment for the ArtsRISCA is currently looking to hire a person who can direct planning and communication efforts that support the Rhode Island arts community and the work of the state arts council. 

During the past year and a half, we’ve been traveling the state, listening to the needs of artists and cultural workers, arts organizations and arts educators, as we put together our latest Strategic Plan. Time and again we heard you say we needed to increase the visibility of the arts – and the work of the State Arts Council – in ways that acknowledge the important role art plays in the economic, educational and cultural vitality of our state and its residents. This priority found its way into our Strategic Plan, which was adopted in May of this year. 

When the pandemic struck, Governor Raimondo focused the State’s energy on controlling the spread of the virus. She was also concerned about the social and emotional health and well-being of Rhode Islanders. She came to RISCA to explore ways the arts could be more “present” in people’s lives. The Arts Council undertook a number of initiatives, including #RIArts, an Artist Relief Fund, direct support for artists and arts administrators on how to navigate the crisis, summer programming for kids through a collaboration with the State Department of Education, and other efforts. 

We quickly found that our ability to amplify these programs was hampered by a lack of capacity to plan and implement cohesive communications. This became even more challenging as RISCA staff time was channeled toward direct help to those impacted by the crisis. We circled back to our Strategic Plan, heard what you told us, and knew we needed to take our communications efforts to the next level. 

Part of the Coronavirus Relief Fund earlier this year, championed by our RI Congressional Delegation, included funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. While most of Rhode Island’s portion went to support our nonprofit arts community, funds were also available to create a Senior Administrative Aide position tasked with communications related to COVID relief and agency/community visibility, for use during the crisis and beyond. 

Thirty-nine state arts agencies have a dedicated communications position. We are now recruiting for such a position.  If you have a background in communications and experience in marketing and communication in an arts or arts-related field, consider joining our team.  For information and to apply, go to apply.ri.gov and search for Senior Administrative Aide.  

Randall Rosenbaum
Executive Director
Rhode Island State Council on the Arts