A City Rethinks its Arts Grants Program in Light of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the city of Newark had created its first arts grant program, the Creative Catalyst Fund, and an art space initiative to fill up to five city-owned properties. Three months later, the art space initiative was put on hold as city officials and the nonprofit Newark Arts retooled the grant "to respond to needs of the local arts community in light of COVID-19," as Next City recently reported.

“We had to pivot a little — a lot — when the pandemic happened,” said fayemi shakur, the artist and arts advocate that was hired as Newark's Arts and Cultural Affairs director. “We have focused on the arts fund to respond to the emergency of artist needs, starting when art organizations began shutting down around the second week in March,” she told Next City.

According to Jeremy Johnson, executive director of Newark Arts, the Creative Catalyst Fund was "already in the works" and it was not created as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. “There’s already been a big divide between [artists and art organizations] who get funded and those who do not, and we were already at work addressing this through Newark Creates,” he explained.

The goal was not to let COVID-19 interrupt or delay the city’s commitment to its local art economy, Deputy Mayor Ladd told Next City.

As the article states,

“Newark is the only city in the state that has launched an arts fund like this to support the sustainability of its arts community and local organizations which will be important as we think about what recovery and revitalization will look like over the coming 18 months,” shakur says. Looking beyond COVID-19, she adds, “we hope to keep the fund going at least for the next three years up to $1 million.”

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