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Shuttered Southern Oregon Arts Venues To Seek Federal Relief Funds

Henry V, Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2012 Ashland, 2012 © T Charles Erickson http://pa.photoshelter.com/c/tcharleserickson tcepix@comcast.net
Charles Erickson/OSF
Henry V, Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2012 Ashland, 2012

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Britt Music and Arts Festival are two regional arts organizations expected to benefit from $15 billion in federal grants set aside in the new coronavirus relief bill.

Arts and culture venues forced to close during the pandemic are one budget item in the massive, $900 billion federal relief bill passed by Congress on Monday. Tucked into the over 5,000-page bill is the section “grants for shuttered venue operators” that have lost at least 25% of their revenue.

“It’s going to make all the difference in the world,” says Donna Briggs, president and CEO of the Britt Music and Arts Festival in Jacksonville. “Just to give you an example, in 2019 we had over $2 million in ticket sales. In 2020 we had zero.”

The Britt Festival’s music season was cancelled last April. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland began cancelling performances in March. OSF lobbied for federal support and plans to apply for relief funds.

“It was crucial that we receive this kind of support,” says OSF Artistic Director Nataki Garrett.

“What this money allows us to do is pay our artists, as well as our administrators who support the art-making. We don’t have to choose now,” she says.

The grants can be used for payroll, independent contractors, rent and maintenance costs, among other things. They’ll be dispersed through the Small Business Administration. Funds are available to music venues, movie theaters, museums and performing arts organizations.

The criteria for the grants and funding amounts are being worked out, but the legislation includes priorities for which venues can apply for funding during the first 28 days of the grant opening.

The first priority group during the initial 14 days of the grant program will be venues that lost 90% or more of their income due to the pandemic. The second priority group or the following 14 days will be venues that lost 70% of their income.

The federal coronavirus relief bill was passed by Congress on Monday. It awaits the signature of President Trump to be signed into law.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.