DuPage Foundation awards $300,000 to arts organizations
Two dozen local nonprofit arts organizations shared $300,000 in federal COVID-19 recovery funds, the DuPage Foundation announced this week.
Through its Arts DuPage initiative, the DuPage Foundation awarded grants ranging from $870 to $15,000 to groups like Salt Creek Ballet in Westmont, the DuPage Symphony in Naperville, the Elmhurst Art Museum and others.
The grants were awarded in December as DuPage County faced a deadline to deploy remaining funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. DuPage received roughly $161 million in CARES Act funds last year.
"We had such a fast turnaround," said Arts DuPage Director Debbie Venezia, who learned about the possibility of steering CARES Act money into arts grants in November. "We had about three weeks."
Before the DuPage County Board voted on Dec. 8 to allocate the $300,000 for the arts grants, Venezia had already flagged 35 local arts organizations about the potential grants. She highlighted all the documentation they needed to prepare.
Since CARES Act funds could be used to reimburse only certain COVID-19-related expenses like utilities, rent, payroll or purchases of personal protective equipment, Venezia said some organizations unfortunately were not eligible.
Yet Venezia was pleased that DuPage got on board with the arts grants right away. She was prepared to argue that arts organizations were in dire need of help due to the loss of live audiences and ticket revenues.
"I also didn't need to spend time selling them on the economic importance of the arts," Venezia said. She cited a study by Americans for the Arts that the average arts event generates an extra $31.47 beyond the ticket price in terms of money spent locally at restaurants, bars or gas stations.
Venezia credited county board member Sheila Rutledge of West Chicago as a major help. Rutledge serves on the board of Arts DuPage.
"Local arts organizations play a vital role in the county's economy, and they've received little relief during the COVID-19 pandemic," Rutledge said in a statement. "We're pleased to work with DuPage Foundation to ensure these organizations receive the assistance they desperately need."
Oak Brook-based First Folio Theatre was awarded a $15,000 grant. David Rice, First Folio's executive artistic director, said the money is being used to help pay for utilities, rent and payrolls -- including for local actors set to appear in upcoming online performances.
Like so many performing arts organizations, Rice said First Folio had to adapt to the abrupt halt of live performances last March. Rice is glad the county and the DuPage Foundation teamed up to offer some relief.
"Even if you don't go to live performances yourself, everything that you love in the arts is originally rooted in live performances," Rice said. "And without that, the arts just don't exist."