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Arts & Culture

State Sends Lifeline To Struggling Arts Organizations In Connecticut

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Yale Repertory Theatre
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Performing arts venues like Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven were among the first businesses to close in March, and will likely be among the last to fully reopen when COVID-19 is no longer a public health threat.

Gov. Ned Lamont has announced a new grant program that will help arts organizations impacted by COVID-19. The $9 million COVID Relief Fund for the Arts will support not-for-profit performing arts centers, performing groups like orchestras and theaters, and community arts schools.

In a statement, Lamont emphasized the importance of these organizations for the state.

“Connecticut’s arts community provides an incredible amount of good for our state and supports thousands of jobs,” Lamont said. “The ongoing, global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted so many aspects of our lives, and many of our state’s nonprofit arts organizations are struggling to recover from its impact. This program will provide some support so that these groups can continue providing the services in our state that so many depend on.”

The pandemic and COVID-related restrictions have hit these organizations hard. Theaters and other performing arts venues were recently given the go-ahead to open to the public as part of the state’s Phase 3 reopening plan but only at 50% capacity, further undermining their ability to turn a decent profit.

In a news release, Connecticut’s Flagship Producing Theaters, a consortium of theaters that includes Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Goodspeed Musicals, Hartford Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse and Yale Repertory Theatre called the grant program “a welcome step toward helping theaters recover.”

“This investment is vital to our efforts to survive the financial devastation caused by the pandemic, as ours were among the first businesses to close and will be last on the list to reopen,” the consortium said in the news release.

Liz Shapiro from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of the Arts said the grants will help struggling organizations stay afloat during the prolonged pandemic.

“Arts organizations, performing arts, theaters have not been able to open their doors. They are creatives though,” said Shapiro. “Creatives can talk amongst themselves and come up with ideas that will move the needle, because they are not stuck in their business model.”

Any qualifying organization that applies will get a base grant of $5,000, with additional matching dollars available for nonprofits that have raised funds during the pandemic. The state will match up to 50% of raised funds. The maximum any organization can receive is $750,000. The $9 million program uses federal CARES Act funding from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series “Where Art Thou?” Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of “Morning Edition”, and later of “All Things Considered.”

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