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City Approves $500,000 Arts & Culture Grant Program

Published on Tuesday, September 15, 2020 | 8:47 am

Public arts organizations hit hard by the deadly coronavirus pandemic were thrown a lifeline Monday by the Pasadena City Council, which approved a $500,000 arts and culture relief grant program.

“Pasadena’s arts and cultural organizations are essential to the community and will be vital to our societal health, well-being and economic recovery,” states a staff report on the program, which was unanimously approved by the council.

The item appeared on the council’s consent calendar and was passed in a collective vote with other measures being considered by the council at Monday’s meeting.

With its vote, the council authorized using $500,000 from the city’s Cultural Trust Fund unappropriated fund balance to the Fiscal Year 2021 Planning and Community Development Department’s Operating Budget to provide funding for the grant program.

The maximum request per applicant is $20,000. Award amounts would be made on a sliding scale based on the requested amount of aid, demonstrated need, and consideration of assets. Award requests would be presented to the Arts & Culture Commission and approved by the City Council. All awardees must provide a subsequent report documenting how the funds have been applied.

Applicants would be required to complete an application that outlines their eligibility, need, and the amount of their funding request (not to exceed $20,000). To be consistent with the city’s annual grants program review process, applications would be reviewed by a three- to five-member panel with subject matter expertise in the areas of nonprofit arts and culture.

Considerations, according to the staff report, include assets (including endowments and restricted funds) and liabilities; the estimated loss of revenue due to canceled events and performances; the extent to which, if any, a virtual format has been utilized and the associated costs; and the degree of personnel impacts (layoffs and or furloughs).

All applicants must meet criteria for award consideration, including:

  • Have an identified and demonstrable financial need for immediate operating support;
  • Be a Pasadena based (as defined in the Annual Grants Program Guidelines), federally designated, nonprofit arts or cultural organization;
  • Operate in compliance with the city’s codes and ordinances;
  • Have been active within the city and have held at least one public program in the City during 2019.

Fiscally sponsored arts or cultural organizations may be considered.

Scores will be applied according to a point system:

  • 1 to 3 points: Not recommended for funding
  • 4 to 6 points: May be recommended for funding
  • 7 to 10 points: Recommended for funding

Most of Pasadena’s arts organizations had planned and funded public programming when COVID-19 necessitated immediate cancellation or postponement. While some were able to move programming to a virtual platform to engage audiences, few if any were able to monetize these programs. Unlike retail and commercial businesses, these organizations and· institutions were not included in early public health order phases for reopening (with the exception of outdoor museums); they were unable to provide take-out or drive-by programming to subsidize their loss of revenues, the report states.

“Although some organizations received private donations in lieu of refunds for paid ticketed events, many provided refunds with no envisioned reschedule dates, further impacting their fiscal viability. As a result, some Pasadena organizations have halted operations entirely, while others have downscaled by implementing staff furloughs and or layoffs. And yet, many are still obligated for facility-related expenses, insurance, and have restrictions on the use of cash assets. … A few coordinated initiatives have provided funding targeted to arts and culture organizations. These include private arts funders and, in some instances, community foundations that have developed partnership funding programs (as in New York and Los Angeles).

“The city’s Annual Grants Program provides support only for public programs, not general operating funds. In response to these losses, separate funding initiatives are being developed at the county and local arts agency levels to enable direct allocations of emergency grants for operating support,” the report states.

Grant awards will be made on a sliding scale based on final panel scores and consideration of the amount of an applicant’s request.

“The national Americans for the Arts Economic Impact Study of Pasadena revealed that at least $24.01 per person is attributed to arts and cultural events in the city,” the staff report states. “The inability of these organizations to hold exhibitions, performances and provide in-person services has had not only a profound impact on their individual operations but has also contributed to the economic losses of the city.”

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