There is $50 million available for arts and culture groups in WA. Here’s how to apply
Manny Cawaling, rushing to his own event at Seattle’s Taproot Theater, couldn’t resist popping into School of Rock, a music school franchise just around the corner. “It’s not a scam,” he told an instructor. There really is $50 million in grants available for arts and culture organizations in Washington.
Cawaling, executive director of Inspire Washington, is on a statewide tour of Cultural Futures, eagerly spreading the word about this opportunity. Monday’s event at Taproot was the third leg of the 2022 tour, and there will be 13 more meetings in different cities through the end of June, as well as three virtual meetings.
This is the third year that Inspire Washington, a statewide coalition that advocates and develops resources for the cultural sector, has hosted Cultural Futures. In the meetings, Cawaling and Jessi Wasson, Inspire Washington’s Programs and Operations Manager, explain what they do, how they advocate for their industry in the Washington State Legislature, and what resources are available for these organizations. The meeting also includes a reverse Q&A session, where Cawaling and Wasson ask attendees about their challenges.
“What really brings them out is when we’re there to talk about money,” Cawaling said, and this year there’s more money than ever before.
From June 20 through July 4, science, heritage, or arts organizations with budgets under $5 million in 2019 are eligible to apply for the state’s Working Washington Round 5 grant at commercegrants.com. The grants are eligible and non-competitive, meaning anyone who applies and is eligible will receive funding. There is $45 million to spend, with the maximum grant being $75,000.
Later in the summer, organizations with 2019 budgets over $5 million will also be able to apply for grants. These organizations have $5 million available among them, and more information will be available in July.
“A historic $50 million was awarded to cultural enterprises this year,” Wasson said. “There are legitimate funds coming directly from the state, within our own communities, that go directly to these companies.”
The grants, which come from the Washington State Department of Commerce, have a shorter duration than a typical grant in which companies can apply for funding, Wasson said. The application period is only two weeks, so they try to get the word out as quickly as possible. All organizations should have their funding by Labor Day, she added.
Inspire Washington has spent more than two years advocating for state and local funding in the Legislature, Cawaling said. Many organizations served by Inspire Washington are not eligible for federal COVID-19 relief grants. For example, for the Shuttered Venue Operators Fellowship, applicants were required to have an auditorium with fixed seating.
“It mattered to us because we care about cultural equity. Each cultural program is important to the community it serves,” Cawaling said.
At the end of the meeting, Cawaling and Wasson asked attendees where they were struggling and what they needed from the state. Almost everyone agreed that the biggest issues were increasing the accessibility of their sites (including physical accessibility and the presence of interpreters), being able to pay rent and retaining staff. on board.
“Salaries are stagnating and it’s hard to hire in the marketplace so I think staffing and keeping people in the arts instead of dropping them and going into corporate America because it’s just more stable “said Jennifer Tucker, Managing Director of Studio. East Training for the Performing Arts in Kirkland.
The group also agreed that the toughest year yet will be 2023, a legislative session Cawaling and Wasson are already preparing for.
“We’re looking at massive deficits next year as funding runs out and people don’t come back,” Wasson said. “We really need to hear [organizations] and what they need support for so that we can make, quite possibly, our biggest request to the state yet.
This cover is partially underwritten by the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over this and all of its coverage.