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Orange County Arts Commission distributing CARES funding to local art organizations

The Orange County Art Commission is supporting the local arts community through grants, allowing people like Sara Booth, pictured here on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, to continue creating art during the pandemic.

The Orange County Arts Commission is distributing over $160,000 in grants to the local arts community after receiving funds from the North Carolina CARES for Arts program. 

The N.C. General Assembly designated $9.4 million to provide direct aid to arts councils and organizations as part of its federal CARES Act spending plan. Some of the funds went to county arts councils like OCAC, so they can act as sub-grantors and distribute grants to their community. 

“The main purpose of this money is to keep people at work,” N.C. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said. “North Carolina has a long, long history of supporting the arts and the people have long appreciated the arts. So there was just natural support for the vote to appropriate this money.” 

The grants are intended to offset the economic impacts incurred by arts organizations during the pandemic. They cannot reimburse revenue losses or expenses already paid for by other federal relief funds but can reimburse:

  • Salaries and benefits.
  • Operating expenses like rent, utilities or insurance.
  • Established monthly expenses like loan payments .
  • Costs from canceling programs.
  • Costs from shifting to virtual programs and services.
  • Costs from mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

Grant  applications through the OCAC will be open until the end of Oct. 30. Katie Murray, director of the OCAC, said the commission will prioritize applications from nonprofit organizations hit hard by the pandemic. 

“We have to honor the original intention of the state legislators, which was to help the nonprofit arts industry,” she said. “But we also want businesses to apply.”

As of Oct. 13, the economic impact of COVID-19 on North Carolina’s art and culture sector has amounted to nearly a $83 million loss, according to a survey conducted by Arts North Carolina. 

The median loss for organizations was $22,000, and 12 percent of respondents were not confident that their organization would survive the pandemic. 

Daniel Mayer, executive director of The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, said the center has had to look toward several different sources of funding, like individual donations and federal loans, to help keep their doors open. 

“The ArtsCenter is all about gathering as a community — the heart of its mission is to come together," he said. "So without that ability, we’ve had to reinvent who we are and what we can do creatively. The Orange County Arts Commission program will be a real lifeline to all of us struggling.” 

While the grant program is ideal for arts organizations, Murray said it might not be ideal for individual artists. But, she said, the commission can point them toward other funding sources that can provide them the assistance they need. 

“We have two other ongoing grant programs right now that are funding artistic and professional development, and we also have a relief fund going, too,” she said. “The need is just so great, and I’m so thankful for what we have, but I wish we had more so we could help everybody that’s on that list.” 


@DTHCityState | 

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