JC Culture Foundation, a recipient of a CARES Act Grant (courtesy JC Culture Foundation)

LOS ANGELES — Last week, the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture opened applications for its new grant program Creative Recovery LA. The regional initiative will distribute $26 million to nonprofit arts organizations hardest hit by the pandemic — the “largest investment we’ve ever received at the County level for the arts,” according to Anji Gaspar-Milanovic, director of grants and professional development for LA County Arts and Culture.

The program is broken down into five separate grant categories with different amounts for each: $14.2 million for general economic relief; $1.7 million to reinvigorate and promote cultural tourism; $4.7 million for artist-led programs, residencies, commissions, and public projects; $3 million for organizations that teach and train young people in creative fields; and $2.8 million for programs that support youth involved with the juvenile justice system through the arts. Organizations can apply for multiple grants with one streamlined application, open now through February 15.

Diedrick Brackens: heaven is a muddy riverbed (2022) at Craft Contemporary, a recipient of a 2020 CARES Act Grant (photo by Josh Schaedel, courtesy Craft Contemporary)

Creative Recovery LA is part of the national American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed in March 2021 through which LA County received $1.9 billion in total. The Department is coordinating with Community Partners which will administer the grants, and selected recipients will be announced in April.

The LA County Department of Arts and Culture set up a similar grant program at the end of 2020, distributing $12 million to 337 arts nonprofits as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. However, that program was only open to organizations that were already grantees of the Department, while Creative Recovery LA has no such limitations. “We’re trying to cast our net as wide as possible,” said Gaspar-Milanovic. “We want to fund every eligible organization that applies.” To that end, they’ve put together a series of workshops to offer applicants assistance. She said she expects over 400 eligible organizations to receive funding.

“There’s a very wide, robust range of organizations that can apply,” said Kristin Sakoda, director of the department. Micro- to big-budget nonprofits; dance, theater, and visual arts organizations; and entities working with youth and social justice are all eligible.

Contra-Tiempo, a recipient of a 2020 CARES Act Grant (image courtesy Contra-Tiempo)

Creative Recovery LA has also been structured with equity in mind, so that priority will be given to organizations in areas most affected by the pandemic based on the County’s COVID-19 Vulnerability and Recovery Index. At least 75% of funds in each grant category must go to organizations in Priority Zone 1, deemed those with the highest need. These include large swaths of central and south Los Angeles, portions of the Eastside like Boyle Heights, El Monte, and Pomona further East, as well as pockets of the San Fernando Valley in the North.

Although blue-chip galleries and private museums may be making headlines touting the cultural ascent of Los Angeles, for Sakoda, the region’s strength lies in the network of community-based cultural organizations. “Don’t sleep on the public sector and local arts agencies,” she said, “and the role we play in sustaining the arts in America.”

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Matt Stromberg

Matt Stromberg is a freelance visual arts writer based in Los Angeles. In addition to Hyperallergic, he has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, CARLA, Apollo, ARTNews, and other publications.

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