The New York Arts Scene Is Getting Some Much-Needed Financial Relief

From Tumacho, at the Connelly Theater. Photo: Elke Young

A little good news! Or at least, an opportunity for certain nonprofits to apply for good news, which will do in these troubled times. The New York Community Trust has announced that it’s administering the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund, a massive system of grants and interest-free loans from what we hope is a bottomless bucket of money. A consortium of more than a dozen funders — including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund — have pooled around $75 million in funds to relieve social services, arts, and cultural institutions. If your revenues from the government are simply being delayed, you apply for a loan. If you won’t be reimbursed and your losses are irrecoverable, there are grants. On the website, there’s a relatively swift and straightforward proposal process.

What does it mean for local theaters? Well, organizations that provide direct support, like food and healthcare, are being given first consideration, so theaters might find themselves a step back in line. But cultural institutions that serve the community are also considered high priority, and the Mellon Foundation’s public language announcing the fund describes the performing arts as our “inspiration” in “the midst of challenges and uncertainty.” At any rate, the focus is on getting money swiftly into the hands of small and mid-sized nonprofits: Criteria for applying for the money include a 501(c)3 designation and a budget under $20 million. (This excludes the largest of our theatrical nonprofits, like Lincoln Center and Roundabout.)

Ginny Louloudes, the executive director of the Alliance of Resident Theaters/New York, was over the moon when she saw the announcement. “It’s so phenomenal that this money is for 12 weeks,” she said. “This will help you get through the end of the fiscal year, and more importantly, the end of the city and state’s fiscal year. I cried when I read the text from my development director,” Louloudes said, still emotional a few hours after she heard. “I knew I was carrying stress in my body, but I had no idea how much.” People in the arts are suffering huge losses every day, and the economic impact on the city will no doubt be enormous. This effort, Louloudes hopes and believes, will get the little theaters she has served for so long through the month of June, if not made whole, then at least still alive. “The city has such a robust appreciation of the arts,” she said. “And art is what’s going to get people through this.”

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NYC Arts Scene Is Getting Some Much-Needed Financial Relief