NASAA Notes: July 2020

July 8, 2020

State Arts Agencies Begin Addressing Long-term COVID-19 Recovery

As our country continues to adapt to new and evolving realities in response to COVID-19, state arts agencies are demonstrating ingenuity and tenacity as they move along a continuum of responses to benefit the arts field.

Initially, state arts agencies (SAAs) reacted to COVID-19 by employing a variety of relief efforts designed to help stabilize the field, and some of those stabilization programs continue to be in effect. Rising to the significant challenge quickly, SAAs retrofitted grant-making programs, making them faster, more flexible and responsive to new realities faced by grantees. In response to clear and present systemic inequities laid bare during the pandemic, SAAs also centered equity within grant making by prioritizing grants to rural communities, people of color, LGBTQ+ populations, individuals with disabilities, veteran populations and high-poverty communities.

The distribution of federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding was a cornerstone within SAA response efforts, but early programmatic responses to the pandemic also included the activation of online marketplaces, state arts impact research and strategies to sustain public engagement, often through online platforms designed for students and families. For a sample of SAA programmatic responses, please see NASAA’s COVID-19 Resources Page.

Further along the continuum, as state and local governments began publishing phased reopening plans, SAAs pivoted to develop and curate reopening resources and guidelines for arts stakeholders. As state and local authorities continue to manage difficult reopening directions for communities across the country, SAAs continue to support their stakeholders by providing reopening guidance tailored to the unique needs of the arts community.

As we again move further along the continuum in response to COVID-19, we see SAAs paying critical attention to the longer-term needs of the arts community. We see them developing programs designed to address the longer-term recovery of the field. I’m pleased to share a few examples with you.

Recently, the Washington State Arts Commission, the Oregon Arts Commission and the Idaho Commission on the Arts cohosted a webinar designed to address arts organization revenue challenges. We certainly know the coronavirus has created an unprecedented financial challenge for arts organizations across the country. Their primary sources of income have been devastated by the ongoing pandemic. In response, these SAAs joined forces to produce Creative Borrowing for Your COVID-19 Comeback. The webinar offered an overview of fully secured borrowing, how to access it and how to use it to stabilize cash flow and chart a comeback course. This practical and productive webinar remains available online and includes a manual on fully secured borrowing for arts organizations. Learn more in this month’s State to State article.

The Indiana Arts Commission is also taking a professional development approach to addressing the longer-term needs of its stakeholders. Its arts and COVID-19 professional development program provides a continuing series of recorded webinars designed to help Indiana artists and arts organizations understand and navigate their current environment and adjust their financial and programmatic practices to new realities that continue to emerge. Topics include navigating employment changes, fundraising during a crisis, an artist’s guide to navigating COVID-19 and the board’s role during a crisis (and more).

In Massachusetts, the Safe Harbors Program empowers Massachusetts cultural organizations to assess their finances and create actionable plans for the future. Led by our colleagues at Massachusetts Cultural Council in collaboration with the Nonprofit Finance Fund, the program includes virtual learning, online resources and capacity building coaching services. Real-time access to Nonprofit Finance Fund consultants deepens learning and supports critical strategy development and decision making that organizations need for a healthy recovery.

The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), recognizing the critical role of arts nonprofit board members, recently presented Guiding Board Members and Continuing Your Mission during COVID and Beyond. As a part of the ongoing series NYSCA Presents, the session covered topics like spending an organization’s endowment, deaccessioning collection assets, and board member and director responsibilities.

As the country grapples with understanding what the new normal will be, it is critical for the arts community to take on many of the same questions. As it does, state arts agencies will be there to provide guidance, resources and support. By extension preparing state arts agencies for the road ahead, NASAA will continue to be there as your thought partner and to share model practices from across the field. Call on us anytime. We’d also appreciate hearing about your emerging strategies to support the long-term recovery of the arts community within your state. As you share your efforts with us, we’ll continue to pay it forward to benefit your colleagues at all 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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