Chairman's Corner: May 21, 2020

Jo Reed: I’m Josephine Reed from the National Endowment for the Arts with “The Chairman’s Corner,” a weekly podcast with Mary Anne Carter, Chairman of the Arts Endowment. This is where we’ll discuss issues of importance to the arts community and a whole lot more. This week we talk about what so many in the arts community are talking about, the distribution of CARES Act funding. Mary Anne, welcome.

Mary Anne Carter: Thank you, Jo.

Jo Reed: Mary Anne, on March 27th, as we know, Congress passed, the president signed, the CARES Act. It distributed 75 million dollars to the Arts Endowment, and I’d like to start today by having you walk through what’s happened with these funds thus far.

Mary Anne Carter: Thank you, Jo. So by law, the agency is directed to distribute 40 percent of those funds directly to our state and regional arts agencies, and so less than three weeks after we received those funds, once the president signed the bill, we made them available to the states and the regionals.

Jo Reed: And do we know what they’ve done with the funds yet?

Mary Anne Carter: Yes. So many of the states and the regional arts organizations are taking different approaches to distributing the CARES Act funding, but every agency is moving ahead with their plans. So right now more than 20 of our state arts agencies have posted guidelines who want to apply to the state level CARES Act funding, and some states have gotten the money out really quickly by amending grant awards that were currently in place. And so they were able to distribute those funds very quickly, and some states have to work with their respective state legislatures, so they’re going through that process, and, you know, everyone is just looking for the most efficient way to distribute these funds.

Jo Reed: Now, has the agency been able to do an analysis of the applicants for CARES Act funding that we’re distributing through direct grants?   

Mary Anne Carter: There has been some done.  So we have over 3100 eligible applicants that we’ve received and have been able to confirm, and applications come from every state and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and that just gives you a sampling of how important this funding is all across the nation, and also, during fiscal year ’17 to ’19, some analysis was done and almost 50 percent-- 48 percent of all of our grants awarded-- went to organizations with budges of under a million dollars, and what we have found in the CARES Act applicants, of the more than 3100 applications that we’ve received, 46 percent of those arts organizations have annual budgets under a million dollars. So, you know, you can see, we’re doing all we can to help everyone across the nation, but also there to help the little guys.

Jo Reed: Yeah. It’s been devastating for arts organizations, especially the smaller ones, to close and lose their main source of revenue. It’s just devastating.

Mary Anne Carter: It really is, and, you know, the smaller organizations tend to rely much more on venue income, ticket sales, than our bigger organizations. So, you know, literally it was one day they were moving forward with their year and the next day they were shut down, not knowing when they’re going to reopen.

Jo Reed: Exactly.

Mary Anne Carter: And, you know, I’ve said this over and over. It’s across the board. The devastation didn’t just hit big or little organizations. It didn’t hit just rural or urban organization. It hit everyone across the board, and, you know, funding is crucial right now.

Jo Reed: Yes. The need for resources is both deep and it’s widespread.

Mary Anne Carter: It absolutely is, and so we were talking about the CARES Act funding, so the remaining 60 percent that will go in terms of direct grants from the National Endowment for the Arts is in the process now of being reviewed. I’ve talked about our panel process.  Each application will be read by at least three readers, recommendations will be made to the council and they’ll vote on that, and then we expect to have that money out by July 1st, and, you know, we continue to talk about the devastation, because that is where we are right now. You know, we are trying to make sure as many of our arts organizations can survive this pandemic as possible, but as always in the creative field, there are so many beautiful, compassionate stories coming out within the arts community.

Jo Reed: Oh. Tell me one or two, Mary Anne, because that’ll make me happy.

Mary Anne Carter: Oh. <laughs> Well, so I’ll give you a couple examples. In Colorado, the Colorado Creative Industries started the Colorado Face Mask Design Challenge, and it’s to help young people make sense of this new world we’re in, when the faces of those around them and their loved ones are covered up by a mask, and it’s a family-friendly activity. Parents can download a template and their children create their own mask design, and, you know, everyone is looking for ways to be hopeful, and so in Delaware, the Delaware Division of the Arts, they’ve changed their Delaware scene, which was a calendar of events, of arts events across the state. So now it’s become a calendar promoting online events and activities across the state. So, you know, everyone’s looking for ways to make sure we are still providing beauty and creativity in this new world we’re facing.

Jo Reed: I just think it’s amazing that with all this uncertainty and with such few resources, arts organizations are continuing to be these creative centers and reaching out to help people during this time.

Mary Anne Carter: And, you know, they always will be. Even when, you know, we’ve had other disasters such as the fires. Who becomes the home to the first responders?  It’s usually an arts organization like the local museum, and so the arts community is accustomed to being the glue that keeps a community together, and we want to make sure they can continue to do that.

Jo Reed: Mary Anne, thank you. And that’s a good place to leave it.  

Mary Anne Carter: Thank you, Jo. I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

Jo Reed: Thank you. I hope you do too.

Mary Anne Carter: Thanks.

Jo Reed: That’s Mary Anne Carter, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information about the Arts Endowment, go to I’m Josephine Reed. Stay safe, and thanks for listening.

Music Credit: “Renewal” composed and performed by Doug Smith from the cd The Collection.

The chairman discusses the state arts agencies’ distribution of the CARES Act funds they received from the Arts Endowment and shares a broad look at the applicants being considered by the endowment for direct grants.