Midtown Raleigh News

Arts groups seek $2 million in grants from Raleigh

Thirty arts groups applied for grants from the city totaling $2 million, a record request that advocates say reflects the vibrancy of the local arts scene but also the level of need in a still-sluggish economy.

The grants, which represent 5 percent of the groups’ total budgets, provide leverage for the organizations to seek matching money from businesses, foundations and donors.

“What other city department only pays 5 percent of the expenses and gets 95 percent given through private donations?” said Sarah Powers, chairwoman of the city’s arts commission. “It’s a pretty good indicator that Raleigh citizens appreciate arts programming.”

The city sets aside money for the arts at $4.50 per resident. This year, requests totaling $2,007,107 were the most in the grant program’s 25-year history and exceeded available funding by $500,000.

The downtown Contemporary Art Museum is now eligible because it has operated for one year. CAM’s request for $150,000 in operating aid was the “greatest factor driving the increase,” according to the arts commission.

The panel recommended that CAM receive $80,000 and a project grant of $10,000, which will support an emerging artists series of exhibitions.

For the past two years, the Carolina Ballet has received $150,000 allocations as part of an agreement with the city – a source of frustration for arts groups who felt the ballet should have to compete each year. This year, the ballet money was moved to a separate category, meaning the ballet won’t draw from the same pool as arts groups.

Amounts could still change depending on the city budget, which will be presented on Monday. Here is a sampling of current projections:

• Visual Art Exchange asked for help with SPARKcon, the organization’s annual art and creativity festival that showcases 1,700 artists and performers.

The commission recommended $16,530, which is $2,500 less than requested.

• The Raleigh Symphony Orchestra asked for payment assistance for area musicians who are part of the organization’s 65-piece full symphony orchestra, 18-piece big band style jazz orchestra and 10-piece chamber ensemble.

The commission recommended $14,285, which is $6,000 less than requested.

• El Pueblo Inc. asked for support for La Fiesta del Pueblo, an annual celebration of Hispanic culture that includes music, dance and arts and crafts.

The commission recommended $15,000, which is $10,000 less than requested.

According to the arts commission, a study that will be released by Americans for the Arts on June 8 will show that spending by Wake County nonprofit arts and culture organizations in 2010 reached $87.8 million.

In a memo to Raleigh leaders, commission members said the “forthcoming study will send a clear message: Raleigh City Council’s continued investment in the arts has nurtured cultural and economic benefits throughout the City of the Oaks.”