Artists and arts groups in San Antonio may stand to gain a significant windfall — if they can hold out until October.
On Thursday, City Council approved a process for allocating $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the local arts sector, with $1 million of that amount to be dedicated to individual artists.
Once an application is accepted in August and approved by first the San Antonio Arts Commission and then City Council, funds will be disbursed in October, according to the timeline submitted by the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture during the council’s A session.
Individual artists stand to gain $7,500 each, with the intent of distributing funds to at least 133 artists.
Individual artist grants distributed last year under the city’s new Core Grants Program were based on specific projects to be produced with the funds. Funding from ARPA grants can be used for housing and living expenses, as well as for professional development and general artistic career support.
The $4 million allocated for arts organizations will be disbursed on a similar timeline, with the goal of at least 40 groups receiving grants. The amount of funding an organization is eligible for depends on its annual budget, in a range from a $50,000 to $200,000 budget receiving an amount equal to 12% of the annual budget, to a group with an annual budget of $8 million to $15 million receiving an amount equal to 2% of the annual budget.
Arts groups may use the funds for operating costs, as well as for strategic planning, technical assistance, and COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Now that the process has been approved, outreach to artists and arts groups will begin, with an online application to be posted by the arts and culture department.
The ARPA arts funding is part of an $88 million overall program of federal recovery funds dedicated to helping communities rebound from the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
In making its case for arts funding beyond the regular annual funding provided by city government — currently at $7.1 million, with an additional $150,000 for individual artists — the arts and culture department cited local losses of 18% in employment for artists and 16% in the overall creative economy.
During discussion before the vote, Councilman John Courage (D9) asked whether musicians of the San Antonio Symphony, on strike and without pay or benefits since September, would be eligible to apply for individual artist grants.
Interim Assistant Director for the Department of Arts and Culture Diana Hidalgo answered in the affirmative. Hidalgo also said artists who make most of their income from their art will be prioritized, as well artists with lower income levels.
Courage noted that if all of the orchestra’s nearly 70 musicians were to receive funding, they would make up half of the money available in the individual artists fund.
Of the overall amount of ARPA funding available, he said, “I’m sorry to see that we aren’t able to commit more, particularly to help out the San Antonio Symphony.”
The council vote was 9-1 in favor of the motion, with Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) voting against it.