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Federal And State Grants Help Struggling Arts Organizations In Connecticut

Hartford's Real Art Ways was one 154 arts organizations to receive funding though Connecticut's COVID Relief Fund for the Arts

2020 is ending on a brighter note for Connecticut arts organizations, which have struggled to remain operational through the prolonged pandemic.

First, the latest COVID relief bill includes $15 billion for theaters and live music venues that were forced to close their doors back in March. That said, the bill remains in limbo.

Second, Connecticut recently doled out $9 million to 154 arts organizations statewide to help them weather the downturn caused by the pandemic. The state’s COVID Relief Fund for the Arts used funding from the CARES Act, the first congressional package, as well as the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to help struggling arts organizations stay afloat during the pandemic. Elizabeth Shapiro, director of the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of the Arts, said 2020 hit the creative sector hard.

“Right here in Connecticut, that translates to $2.4 billion in estimated cumulative lost sales revenue, over 33,000 estimated job losses, and an estimated $400 million in ... economic losses for arts and cultural nonprofits,” said Shapiro.

The Goodspeed Opera House alone lost about $5 million due to the pandemic. It was awarded a $532,100 grant, one of the largest grants given from the relief fund. The producer of Goodspeed Musicals, Donna Lynn Hilton, said while the grant will help sustain the Goodspeed, the organization still has a long road ahead.

“We don’t know when we will reopen, and when our audience will be comfortable returning to us. We hope we can begin producing seven or eight months from now, but even then, we will still be a very long way from financial stability,” said Hilton.

Hartford’s Real Art Ways received $153,700 in funding. Executive Director Will K. Wilkins said the grant means that for now, his organization doesn’t have to worry.

“This funding allows us to sit and think about how we can do better,” said Wilkins. “This is so important to us.”

Every qualifying arts organization received a $5,000 base grant from Connecticut’s COVID Relief Fund for the Arts, with matching grants of up to 50% for organizations that raised funds between March and November.

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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