Jones Co. groups benefit from Arts & Culture Recovery Program

Staff report

     Two organizations in Jones County recently benefitted from a statewide program aimed at keeping the arts alive in Iowa.

     Starlighters II Theatre and the National Motorcycle Museum both received CARES Act funding as part of the Iowa Arts & Culture Recovery Program.

     A total of 267 cultural organizations and 152 artists serving 118 Iowa communities received a share of the $7 million in grants announced by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Gov. Kim Reynolds allocated the funds. The Iowa Arts & Culture Recovery Program received more than 550 requests totaling more than $36 million.

     The National Motorcycle Museum received $18,400. Starlighters was awarded $5,000.

     “The Iowa Arts & Culture Recovery Program stabilizes a vital part of Iowa’s economy by helping our arts and cultural sector build a much-needed funding bridge for a stronger recovery,” said Chris Kramer, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs director. “We are so grateful to Gov. Reynolds for her steadfast support of Iowa’s creative and cultural workforce. These grants provide relief for thousands of Iowans whose jobs and livelihoods have been impacted this year.”

     The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated Iowa’s creative sector, which relies on income from admissions, ticket sales, and events. According to data provided by grant applicants, organizations have lost a combined $46.4 million in income since the pandemic began.

     In a typical year, Iowa’s creative sector accounts for 2.3 percent of the state’s economy. Iowa’s arts, culture, history, and creative industries employ more than 42,000 Iowans working in more than 5,000 non-profit and for-profit businesses statewide.

     Grants from the Iowa Arts & Culture Recovery Program will bolster arts venues, cultural non-profits, and creative workers whose activities are essential to education, economic development, and quality of life throughout Iowa.

     The one-time grants range from $1,500 to $175,000 and provide relief to individuals, businesses, and non-profits that can demonstrate lost income and extra expenses incurred due to the pandemic. The grants may be used to offset operating expenses, as well as costs associated with re-opening in-person or adapting programs to virtual formats.

     While the relief program was highly competitive, the department funded 75 percent of the requests, demonstrating support for arts and culture statewide. Additionally:

     • More than half of the grants were distributed to cultural organizations with annual budgets under $250,000

     • The average grant for organizations and venues was just over $25,000

     • Funding was prioritized for artists and organizations that serve rural areas, culturally diverse populations, or under-represented groups

     Jill Parham, vice president of the National Motorcycle Museum, expects to see the funds come in around February or March.

     “We’re ecstatic about getting it,” she said. “We’ve applied for everything we possibly could.”

     The museum shut down on March 17, per the Governor’s orders. They were closed for two and a half months, and unfortunately had to lay some employees off for the time being.

     “It’s been a tough year for museums and non-profits,” expressed Parham. “We had no choice but to follow the rules.”

     Parham said the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) helped them out a lot in terms of utilities and on-going bills associated with the museum.

     This new grant, Parham shared, will be used for payroll now that employees have been brought back to work.

     “Our revenue and admissions have been down,” she said. “We haven’t had a ton of internet orders.”

     While the place was closed, an extensive cleaning project took place, as well as organizing new displays.

     The banquet hall inside the museum is rented out for large events. Parham said they chose to keep the room closed to mass gatherings, per the state’s recommendations. They also cancelled their annual Vintage Rally in June.

     “We had no events promoting the museum,” said Parham. “Tourism continues to be down so much in Iowa, but we continue to plug along.”

     The Express reached out to representatives from Starlighters II Theatre regarding use of the $5,000 grant. Unfortunately we did not receive any comments by press time. However, the following was shared on their Facebook page: “It was a difficult decision this year to darken our stage, the first time in over 40 years. Although this decision was in the best interest of our patrons, no shows means no incoming funds. We are a non-profit, all-volunteer organization relying on our patrons and shows for funding. We have been fortunate to be with savings, donations, and local grants. Because of these funds and donations, we are assured that Starlighters will re-open when it is safe to do so. We would like to thank one of our biggest funding groups, the Iowa Arts & Culture Recovery Program, for accepting our grant proposal. These funds will help offset the effects from COVID-19.”


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