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Louisville Metro awards $250,000 to 16 local arts organizations with National Endowment for the Arts funds

Children wearing blue shirts with the image of a leopard in sunglasses and the words Louisville Leopard Percussionists written in them. The children also wear cat ear headbands on their heads. The two children closest to the camera prepare to strike a xylophone with mallets.
Kriech-Higdon Photography
The Louisville Leopard Percussionists are one of 16 organizations selected by the city to receive funds from the National Endowment for the Arts’ American Rescue Plan sub-granting program.

Louisville Metro Government’s Office of Arts and Creative Industries awarded $250,000 to 16 local arts organizations. The funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts’ American Rescue Plan sub-granting program.

According to a news release from the city, the program aims to help arts organizations as they try to return to semi-normal processes following COVID-19.

Organizations were able to apply for grants of $10,000 or $25,000. According to the release, recipients were chosen based on “artistic excellence and merit, community benefit, use and management of funds, and demonstrated financial need.”

This is the full list of recipients and the amount they received:

  • HN2L - $10,000
  • IdeasXLab - $10,000
  • Kentucky Opera - $25,000
  • Kentucky Shakespeare - $10,000
  • KMAC Museum - $25,000
  • Looking for Lilith - $10,000
  • Louisville Ballet - $25,000
  • Louisville Folk School - $10,000
  • Louisville Leopard Percussionists - $10,000
  • Louisville Visual Art - $25,000
  • Louisville Youth Choir - $10,000
  • Sarabande Books - $10,000
  • Speed Art Museum - $10,000
  • Squallis Puppeteers - $10,000
  • StageOne Theater - $25,000
  • STEAM Exchange - $25,000

“We look at this as the city having our back and putting faith in arts organizations like us,” said Kent Klarer, the executive director at Louisville Leopard Percussionists.
The Louisville Leopard Percussionists work with students to teach them a variety of percussion instruments and put on community performances. Over the course of the pandemic, Klarer said classes and performances were held virtually.

“We had two years where we didn’t perform in public at all, and that’s such a huge part of our educational process is actually sharing the music that we learn,” Klarer said.

Klarer said student numbers have increased since the start of the pandemic, and the sub-grant will help ensure they have the staff to meet students' needs.

“This is allowing us to sort of bolster our professional staff to keep providing the quality of service we have for all these years with the number of students we now have, which is a lot to handle on a small staff,” Klarer said.

This National Endowment for Arts funding helps organizations with operating costs — something recipients say is particularly important as they try to recover from COVID-19 losses.

“Project funding is vital, but what is even more essential is the funding that lets you build capacity, hire staff, hire back staff that didn’t have work during the pandemic,” said Shannon Woolley Allison, co-founder and artistic director at Looking for Lilith.

Looking for Lilith is an ensemble theater that creates original programming that centers marginalized voices.

According to Jennifer Thalman Kepler, another Looking for Lilith co-founder and artistic director, the organization will use the funding to bolster their school program for some of the youngest participants.

“We have experienced that, especially the younger kids who would have started kindergarten … they were doing kindergarten virtually, some of those social skills aren’t there,” Thalman Kepler said.

Thalman Kepler said Looking for Lilith’s afterschool programs has helped students begin to develop some of those skills, and National Endowment funding will help them hire more people for these programs.

Arts programs have been shown to help improve people's mental and emotional well-being, along with helping children develop social skills.

Both Thalman Kepler and Woolley Allison said the funding shows city and state governments understand the important role the arts play in society.

“These government entities not only understand that arts are essential for all the reasons we’ve already talked about, but they’re also essential for a healthy economy,” Thalman Kepler said.

She said when artists are paid well, they have the ability to invest that money back into the local economy, helping several sectors recover from COVID-19.

Support for this story was provided in part by theJewish Heritage Fund.

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Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.