NASAA Notes: April 2017


April issue
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April 5, 2017

Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee: Reaching the Most-Underserved Communities

A perennial goal of state arts agencies is to improve their engagement with and support of underserved communities. Geographic isolation, economic distress and other factors can be roadblocks for some constituents, especially those in rural areas. Recognizing the long-term impacts of such impediments, some state arts agencies have developed programs that focus especially on reaching the least-served populations in effort to make public funding for the arts more accessible and equitable. State to State this month highlights programs in four states designed to address these gaps.

In Georgia, the Vibrant Communities grant aims to reach counties in which no organization received another grant award from the Georgia Council for the Arts (GCA) in a fiscal year. Through this GCA program, grants of $1,000 – $5,000 (requiring a 50% cash match) are available to nonprofits, local government entities, public libraries, and schools, colleges and universities. The program’s application process is streamlined to assist applicants with varying degrees of grant-writing experience. The program, which mostly serves rural communities, funds arts activities involving professional artists and/or local community members as well as capacity building activities that benefit arts groups. The state legislature underwrites the Vibrant Communities program through a direct appropriation to GCA. For more information, contact GCA Grants Program Director Tina Lilly.

Jerry Jenkins, African Djembe Drummer

Photo by Mississippi Arts Commission Folk & Traditional Arts Director Jennifer Joy Jameson

The Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) has launched a special initiative in partnership with the Mississippi Library Commission to facilitate underserved communities’ access to creative experiences as well as to state grants and services. Libraries in eight Mississippi counties that have not received MAC funding in the past 10 years are hosting MAC-facilitated performances and presentations by musicians, dancers, storytellers and other artists. Following each artist showcase, MAC staff shares information about MAC’s programs and how citizens from around the state can apply for MAC funding. The events, which are free and open to the public, double as examples of MAC’s support, as each participating artist is selected from the Mississippi Artist Roster. MAC Director of Arts Education Charlotte Smelser can speak more about the partnership.

There are 88 counties in Ohio, and this year the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) succeeded in its goal of directly funding organizations in each one of them. OAC previously had never funded organizations in more than 57 counties within a single fiscal year, leading it to create its Fund Every County initiative (FEC). With a special appropriation allocated by the state general assembly and approved by the governor for the FY2016-2017 biennium, OAC awarded nearly 70 grants of $1,000 – $10,000 each in 31 targeted counties, ensuring it is supporting arts programming and projects statewide. Grantees include arts groups, other nonprofits offering arts programming, government agencies, and schools located and working in the designated counties. OAC will continue to support the FEC grantees by making sure they are aware of additional programming and funding opportunities. The agency already has hosted several regional meetings of FEC grant recipients to learn about their experience as first-time grantees and discuss next steps. Contact OAC Deputy Director Dan Katona to learn more.

Ten Tennessee counties are eligible this year to receive funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission (TN Arts) through its Targeted Arts Development Initiative (TADI). Artists, nonprofit groups, government agencies and schools within these counties—identified by TN Arts as being underrepresented in its current year investments—are eligible to apply. TADI is designed to help stakeholders in underserved counties build capacity, leverage the arts to overcome community challenges, strengthen existing assets or otherwise benefit citizens. It also serves as an introductory bridge to TN Art’s other grant programs and services. This program has been key to investing funds in every county of the state for the last four years. TN Arts biannually reviews its grant portfolio to determine how many and which counties should be included in the TADI program. For further information, contact TN Arts Associate Director for Grants Hal Partlow.