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Fund for the Arts Announces $10M Fundraising Effort Focused On Helping Greater Louisville’s Cultural Sector ‘Survive These Unprecedented Times’

The entrance to the cafe at the shuttered Speed Art Museum on April 2, 2020.
The entrance to the cafe at the shuttered Speed Art Museum on April 2, 2020.

Fund for the Arts announced it will “redirect all of its efforts to help Greater Louisville arts and culture organizations survive these unprecedented times.”

On Thursday, the nonprofit announced the launch of the Cultural Lou Recovery Campaign, its response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the arts and culture sector and an expansion of its annual fundraising effort. The expanded fundraising goal is $10 million and done through a partnership with the Greater Louisville Arts & Culture Alliance.

“We wanted to put out an aspirational number, but also one that, with all of the otherchallenges and charitable needs right now, that this community could really make happen,” Fund for the Arts president and CEO Christen Boone said of that goal. 

The $10 million will go toward emergency grants to support cultural institutions’ essential functions through the crisis, recovery grants for Greater Louisville arts, culture, history and heritage institutions, which will be awarded in the fall, and efforts “that support access, education and equity in the arts.”

“These institutions are such a vital part of our city’s economy, growth, vibrancy, and unique culture," said David Wombwell, Market President at US Bank, who is co-chairing the campaign. “We want to ensure they can brave the storm.”

In addition to the economic argument for ensuring these arts groups are around after social distancing restrictions are lifted, Boone said the arts will help build community and help people “heal from social isolation.”

“Right now, we are looking to our phones and our computer screens for that kind of social connectivity,” she said. “We're being comforted by movies, by music. And when we come out of this, the arts will pull us through and be the place where we come together to reconnect.”

The Greater Louisville Arts & Culture Alliance and Fund for the Arts report that Jefferson County arts and culture nonprofits generate about $462.5 million in economic activity each year. Based on those numbers, they estimate a $1.3 million economic impact loss each day the area’s venues stay shuttered.

“Everyday that the venues are closed and everyday they can’t generate the important earned revenue, that just creates more challenge,” she said. “And the uncertainty of not knowing multiples that.”

Some large companies have lifted restrictions on grants they’ve made, and matched those dollar-for-dollar, so they can be redirected toward the Cultural Lou Recovery Campaign, according to the Fund for the Arts release. 

Boone said the $10 million is “not a silver bullet.”

“Institutions will have to continue to make tough choices,” she said. “It's not meant to be a lifeline for any organization. But it’s a stabilizing investment that will allow institutions to continue to build upon.”

Boone said Fund for the Arts also plans to announce its first grant to an individual artist soon. Nearly 30 artists will receive these micro-grants, ranging from $100 to $500, to cover immediate needs. 

Editor's note: The spelling of David Wombwell's name has been corrected.