MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nearly every industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the arts community. Arts Memphis, which helps fund artists and arts organizations in the Mid-South, received a $500,000 federal American Rescue Plan grant last week and it plans to use the money to help the arts community bounce back.
The grant is from the National Endowment for the Arts and is used to support operational costs to arts organizations across the country. Arts Memphis was one of 66 organizations nationally and one of three Tennessee organizations to receive money.
Arts Memphis Chief Operations Officer Tracy Lauritzen Wright said the COVID-19 pandemic's financial impact on the local arts programs was heavy.
"The impact of the pandemic on the art sector was dramatic no pun intended," Wright said. "The arts sector, our nonprofit arts organizations collectively experienced a revenue lost of about $24 million."
Arts Memphis helps organizations with operating costs providing unrestricted funding so that organizations can use grant money how they see fit. The American Rescue Plan money is a welcome news for organizations like Young Actors Guild which receives funds from Arts Memphis.
"Oh goodness Arts Memphis has certainly been a strong pillar in the community," said executive director Sabrina Norwood. "The pandemic certainly hit a lot of arts organizations, but they helped arts organizations to pivot. They came in to fill in the gap for some funding that everyone was looking for and losing."
Young Actors Guild is a performing arts program for youth ages three to 17. The pandemic was hard on the young performers like alum Alexandria Edwards, now a freshman at Duke University, who had to participate virtually after shutdowns with no promise of programming.
"It was probably the toughest thing I’d ever done," Edwards said.
With new funds likely on the way, Norwood expects a boost.
"That means that provides us with an opportunity to rent space and not to take shortcuts in the programming that we have, but provide sustainable programming and to provide our youth a fighting opportunity on their next level. We’re excited about these funds being here in the Mid-South, being here in Memphis," Norwood said.
Arts Memphis hopes more funding will allow arts organizations to return to normalcy in 2022 as the pandemic restrictions hopefully begin to loosen.
"All the opportunities that we had pre-pandemic what we’re hoping is that these funds will be able to help bring back staff, bring back their programs and their performances at pre-pandemic level or something close to that," Wright said.
Arts Memphis will begin doling out the funds in 2022. Young Actors Guild is preparing for their December 11 performance of The Wiz. Tickets can be purchased at yagmemphis.com.