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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 (email@example.com) 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.