Arts organizations receive state funding

Leaders say the $9.1M commitment affirms the importance of arts in the community.
Grant money for West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology will help students budget for their projects. Courtsey Carolina Lopez-Ruiz

Arts and history organizations and educational institutions in West Michigan were among 470 applicants to receive $9,168,440 in grants from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA.)

The recipients represented 58 of 83 counties, including Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa and Kalamazoo. The grants were issued to different programs within institutions and organizations such as museums, musical groups, theaters, schools and zoos. The grants were for arts education, new staffing, project support, operational support, capital improvement, regional regranting and services to the field programs.

“It is really wonderful to see so many great grant applications,” said Alison Watson, director of MCACA. “During these tough times, it is a strong affirmation that the field is still vibrant and the value of our programs is not only recognized, but can contribute to ongoing efforts supporting vibrancy in our communities throughout the state.”

School districts such as Kalamazoo, Lowell, Kentwood and Comstock were among some of the institutions that received funding for arts education.

West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT), Arts Creating Together Inc., The Playhouse at White Lake, Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center and Holland Historical Trust also received funding.

WMCAT received $2,700 of the $3,000 it requested for the New Leaders Grant. Trudy Ngo-Brown, director of Arts + Tech at WMCAT, said the grant allows the organization to give students a budget so they and staff members can decide what types of projects to work on.

One of the projects the center’s Teen Leadership Team did was to create artworks that are displayed in the arts and tech wing of WMCAT, which has been at its present location on Seward Avenue NW for a little more than two years. Students at WMCAT can specialize in photography, ceramics, illustration, fashion design and video production.

“We are just thankful,” Ngo-Brown, said. “Every dollar counts, especially during these times. It makes me feel good that there is a commitment — despite everything that is going on in 2020 — there is still a commitment to arts and cultural organizations and experiences.”

MCACA awarded $771,750 to project support programs and among some of those recipients were Hope College’s Summer Repertory Theatre, Muskegon County Community Foundation, Living with Communities, Calvin University’s office of the provost, Kalamazoo County Land Bank, Aquinas College’s music department and the Grand Rapids Public Library.

Operational support programs in Michigan received $4,974,534. Over 60 programs in West Michigan received funding, including DisArt, Grand Rapids Symphony Society, Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Society, Grand Rapids Public Museum, ArtPrize Grand Rapids, John Ball Zoo and Blandford Nature Center.

DisArt, which is a cultural organization that is centered around disability awareness, received $18,750. Co-founder Chris Smit said the funds will be going toward different components within the organization, including the My Dearest Friends Project, DisTopia and DisCourse.

My Dearest Friends is a collection of stories and illustrations shared by individuals with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. DisTopia is a podcast that allows people with disabilities, disability advocates and other professionals to be interviewed and share their input with the community.

DisCourse is a forum, whether through webinars or workshops, created to advise, consult and inform individuals, businesses and organizations about the lived experience of people with disabilities and how to incorporate them in the diversity, equity and inclusion mission set forth by different entities. Some of the companies that DisArt has worked with are Stryker Corp., Local First, Grand Rapids Art Museum and Experience Grand Rapids.

“In the world of disability consulting, there is a lot of advice about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Smit said. “DisCourse has a cultural approach rather than compliance. When companies are curious about welcoming disabled people into their workplace, they will usually look at the ADA and its regulations about how to make the workplace accessible. The problem with that is it does not look at the culture in the community that is made in a company. It is about compliance and accommodation rather than accounting for (the people). So, we are here to help organizations, businesses and companies of all kinds to think about the importance of incorporating disability into their existing community in a way that is authentic and driven by disabled people.”

MCACA allocated $1,684,410 to capital improvement programs. The Grand Rapids Public Museum, WMCAT, Barn Theatre School, Holland Historical Trust and Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum were among 14 programs to receive funding.

GRPM received $46,291 in capital funding. According to Kate Koclenski, vice president of marketing and public relations, the museum will use the funds to upgrade its current classrooms for field trips and programming for K-12 students, college groups and adult public programming.

Upgrades will include new tables and seating that allows for accessibility and updates to the AV equipment to allow for additional virtual options.

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