The Wiregrass Museum of Art (WMA) has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) through the Alabama CARES About the Arts: Emergency Relief Grants program. The program was established with federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and South Arts, a regional 9-state arts organization, to aid the arts industry recovery effort in Alabama. A total of $457,900 from the NEA, combined with $60,000 from South Arts, will benefit 80 arts organizations around the state.
The grant program recognizes the vital role arts organizations and artists play to improve the quality of life in Alabama, and to serve as economic drivers, affecting tourism and thousands of jobs in the state. According to ASCA, the grants must be used to support salaries and independent contractor costs, as well as costs essential to organizational operations. Arts organizations in Alabama could apply for the program with evaluation based on financial and employment impact.
“We are grateful to the Alabama Congressional delegation for supporting the CARES Act, which provided funding to the National Endowment for the Arts, that the Alabama State Council on the Arts was able to use to help the Wiregrass Museum of Art and dozens of other critical cultural institutions across Alabama. Arts organizations have been greatly impacted by the pandemic and have lost millions of dollars in revenue since March,” said Dr. Elliot Knight, ASCA’s executive director.
“Despite the assistance provided through the Alabama CARES About the Arts: Emergency Grant Program, the needs at our arts institutions are much greater and will require additional help from both the public and private sectors,” said Knight.
The emergency support from the CARES program is vital as WMA estimates significant financial losses during the temporary shutdown of the museum due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As classes, workshops, and annual fundraisers like Yard Party for Art were canceled for health and safety reasons, the museum’s stream of earned income disappeared, and donations to the museum decreased significantly as members of the community experienced financial losses themselves. The CARES grant will help WMA pursue sustainable strategies while maintaining operations during these uncertain economic times.
“It’s evident that WMA will continue to see impacts from the pandemic and our temporary closure for some time. As grant funding is redirected, businesses cut spending, and we are restricted in the ways we can gather with our community, WMA will be adapting our work to meet the needs of tomorrow. We are finding new ways to connect with artists in and out of the gallery space, we’re offering new platforms for art education, and we’re getting creative about how to raise dollars that will continue to keep the museum free and accessible to everyone,” said Dana-Marie Lemmer, WMA’s executive director.
WMA has continued to find ways to stay connected to and serve the community, even during the time of temporary closure. Museum staff developed digital content for children and families to create and explore art at home. Through partnerships with Dothan City Schools and other community organizations, WMA has distributed thousands of art kits with lessons and high-quality art supplies for students to use at home. The museum has also offered virtual events like One Night Only, an online gathering and opportunity for the community to get to know WMA better; artist takeovers of WMA’s Instagram account; and a virtual artist talk. Even as the museum’s doors reopen, WMA’s staff will continue to develop new and more accessible ways for members of the Wiregrass community to connect with artists and engage with art in more meaningful ways.
“This support will allow WMA the flexibility to reimagine, in the short term, how the museum will continue to best serve the public during this time. We are committed to the safety of our staff and visitors, as well as providing unique experiences that allow us all to connect with one another through the arts,” said Lemmer.
About the Alabama State Council on the Arts
The Alabama State Council on the Arts is the official state arts agency of Alabama. The staff of the Council, directed by Dr. Elliot Knight, administers the grants programs, produces arts events, and provides technical assistance in arts planning and implementation. The Council receives funding through an annual appropriation from the Alabama Legislature and funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
About the Wiregrass Museum of Art
The Wiregrass Museum of Art inspires a lifelong appreciation for the visual arts by providing innovative educational programs that engage diverse audiences through the collection and exhibition of quality works. Since its founding in 1988, WMA has offered educational programs, nationally acclaimed art exhibitions and community events throughout the year. Its Board of Trustees guides the long-term vision and strategic goals, while its membership, City and County support, and grant funding provide the resources needed to fulfill its mission.View More Stories