“At this time of a global health pandemic and civil unrest, we need our artists and artistic institutions to survive so they can provide an outlet for cultural and civic expression, which is so incredibly needed to heal and unite our community and nation,” said Councilmember Evan Glass, who served as the executive director of an arts organization before joining the Council. “The arts sector is a vibrant part of Montgomery County’s economic engine, and it is important that we provide support during these crises so that they are ready to turn their lights on and raise their curtains when it is safe to reopen.”
The special appropriation provides $250,000 in mini-grants of up to $3,000 to individual artists and creative workers and $3 million in general operating support grants to arts and humanities organizations. Compared to surrounding jurisdictions, Montgomery County’s arts and humanities sector has experienced the highest loss in revenue due to canceled performances, exhibitions and events, since Maryland Governor Hogan’s Executive Order was issued to close performing and visual arts, concert and film venues as well as museums.
Moreover, in an April 2020 survey conducted by the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, 100 percent of local arts and humanities organizations reported cancelling, suspending or delaying 712 contracts for independent artists, scholars and educators that arts and humanities organizations could no longer employ. This is compounded by the fact that many creative professionals have reported difficulty accessing or qualifying for federal and state Covid-19 relief programs such as unemployment benefits and housing assistance. According to Americans for the Arts, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations have lost an estimated $5.5 billion and 210 million admissions across the U.S. due to cancelled events through May 18, 2020.
Like other jurisdictions, arts and entertainment venues in Montgomery County are among the last group of activities that are permitted to resume operations because of concerns associated with indoor Covid-19 transmission and large group activities. The long-term impact of the global pandemic on the arts and humanities sector in the County is not yet fully known because it is difficult to schedule opening dates and to gauge the level of public demand once creative arts venues are able to resume operations.
The Council staff report on the special appropriation can be viewed here .