The Salt Lake City Arts Council plans to restore the cultural sector with a $500,000 grant

Shannon Secody helps her grandson Elija Hendricks get dressed before his performance at a festival presented by the Salt Lake City Arts Council on May 19, 2018. The council has received a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help the cultural sector’s recovery from the pandemic. (Adam Fondren, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Arts Council is hoping to restore arts and culture to the city after the pandemic slowed things down dramatically.

The arts agency was one of 66 nationwide and the only one in Utah to receive a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help the cultural sector recovery.

The money is used to fund artists, projects, programs, or organizations through the City Arts Grants Program, part of Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall’s budget. This year, the program awarded approximately 100 scholarships totaling approximately $350,000.

The need for support has increased since the pandemic began, with the cultural sector being the second hardest hit in the state.

“During the last two years of my tenure, we have experienced many crises in our city. For so many Salt Lakers and visitors to our city, we have turned to art to reflect, rebuild and heal these times,” Mendenhall said in a statement.

“Many artists had difficulties making a living during this time. I’m excited to see how the Salt Lake City Arts Council can distribute these funds and help our local creative industries thrive for the benefit of our local individual artists, nonprofits, and residents alike.”

While many organizations and venues in the arts and culture sector have been reeling during the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the industry is still suffering its impact. Emerging variants and waves of the virus have resulted in performance cancellations due to performer illnesses, changed protocols and policies, and additional expenses related to COVID-19.

“We were so proud of the arts and culture industry for being able to respond quickly and reflectively to community needs, but many organizations really struggled to have the resources to turn around their doors to keep open.” Felicia Baca, executive director of the Salt Lake City Arts Council, said. “A lot of people in our industry have lost their jobs.”

According to Baca, the American Rescue Plan grant will allow for a 50% annual overall increase in the City Arts Grant program, allowing more needs to be addressed in the arts and cultural sector. The additional funding will increase the number of artists and organizations the program can support for a “just recovery from the pandemic.”

“It’s really exciting to be able to support these artists and allow them to get back to work and contribute to a vibrant arts culture in our city. To be able to support efforts that are beginning to lift the spirits of the community again and help people,” Baca said. “A lot of our industry is about collecting, belonging and celebrating life events and coming back to that, it’s so awesome for us to be able to play a part in that.”

The Salt Lake City Arts Council anticipates an initial launch of two grant categories later this month, with applications closing in the last week of March and funds being distributed in early June.

Grant categories include Artist Career Empowerment and Racial Equity. According to Baca, the Salt Lake City Arts Council’s Racial Equity grants were introduced last year.

“We know that (Black, Indigenous and Colored) communities are among the hardest hit communities during the pandemic and are being disproportionately affected. So that’s one reason it’s really important to support those communities,” Baca said. “It’s really beneficial to help not only individuals but also organizations and socially address these issues in their organizations.”

Visit saltlakearts.org for more information on scholarships and how to apply.

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