Local arts community draws up $2.4 million ‘economic recovery’ proposal for A2 Rescue Relief Funds

The City of Ann Arbor is in the process of determining how to allocate $24.1 million that the city is receiving in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and have asked the community to weigh in on preferences for potential projects to receive funding.

Well, they are starting to get some input from the arts community. In fact, they recently received an impressive and highly detailed proposal to assist a “devastated” arts community to include for consideration.

Earlier this month, the city released a long list of potential projects (including the price tag on each) that included City Clerk Election Center, Solar on City Facilities, Housing for Homeless Households, and Fire Station 4 (Huron Parkway) – First Net Zero Fire Station in Michigan.

The list did not include – at least at the moment – any funding for the arts. But members of Creative Washtenaw, a regional agency whose mission is to advocate for and support the artists, creative workers, organizations, businesses, educators and municipalities engaged in Washtenaw County, have drawn up plans for an additional proposal to be considered.

“The need for our municipalities to step up and invest in and create policy, as they do for those things our citizens value, is critical,” says Deb Polich, President/CEO of Creative Washtenaw. “Ann Arbor’s arts and creative assets significantly impact the city’s economy, quality of life and place, but receives, little if any, direct investment or public policy to support it.”

Deb Polich

The arts community in and around Ann Arbor has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, shutting the doors of venues and putting artists and creative workers out of work. Despite some normalcy returning and venues starting to open again, the continued surges and fears of some people returning to venues continues to impact attendance figures. A quick look at the Michigan Theatre and The Ark events pages, for example, continue to have scheduled events cancelled or rescheduled.

In fact, the U.S. Census bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey reports that “arts, entertainment and recreation” businesses are among the most likely to take longer than six months to recover from the pandemic and that audience confidence in a safe return to venues remain low.

Creative Washtenaw and others from the Ann Arbor’s Arts + Creative Industries recently drafted and sent a detailed economic recovery proposal to city officials that would cost $2.4 million and would help provide support for and invest in the recovery of Ann Arbor’s arts + creative organizations, businesses, artists and creative workers gravely impacted by the COVID pandemic.

The proposal states: Ann Arbor’s Arts + Creative Industries are integral to its economy, health, education, travel & tourism, social services, public safety, veterans and quality of life and place. Investing in the survival of this industry, vastly paralyzed by the pandemic, offers Ann Arbor the opportunity to recover its economic vibrancy more quickly.

The proposal also provides background and data on the economic impact and devastation COVID has had on the arts  and other creative industries.

Ann Arbor’s Arts + Creative Industries have a $100 million economic impact generated by 118 arts plus creative nonprofits – only 11 with budgets higher than $1 million and two of those are social service organization doing arts programs. Local tax dollars generated through businesses and audiences totals approximately $2,786,000 with 2.5 million annual attendees spend on transportation, restaurants, lodging, parking and more.

“Investing ARPA funds in the people, organizations and businesses that drive Ann Arbor’s Arts + Creative Industries will aid in the recovery of Ann Arbor’s economic vitality, quality of life and place,” Polich says.

Ann Arbor City Council members are taking community input into consideration to make the final decision about what projects receive ARPA funds. Visit the website to learn more about the funds, the projects that are being considered and to share your opinion through an online survey that is available until Feb. 14.

What does Ann Arbor’s Arts + Creative Industries proposal involve? [Draft concept for discussion]

$2.4 million of ARPA Funds to administer and sub-granting aid program for resident arts + creative organizations, businesses, artists and creative workers.

– Arts + Creative businesses (nonprofit and for profit) with an Ann Arbor address and registered in Michigan.
– Small to medium organizations with budgets less than $500,000 or, if not in receipt of Shuttered Venue Operating Grant Funds, higher.
– Supporting: wages, fees, stipends, facility and operational costs, promotion and health & safety supplies.
– Artists and creative workers (including gig workers)
– Eligibility: live or work in Ann Arbor.
– Supporting: artist fees/stipends for presentations, workshops, research, and/or the creation of artwork and projects.

Equitable distribution: Be authentic to needs, values and culture of Ann Arbor and its residents.
– Either establish a new Ann Arbor Arts + Creative Commission within city government or contract an agency (such as Creative Washtenaw to administer it with their in place subgranting portfolio.)
– With citizen engagement set subgranting criteria.
– Being mindful of diversity, equity, accessibility, inclusion and justice. Recruit a commission to review and distribute funds based on demographics, needs and recovery impact.
– Be transparent and create awareness by requiring grantees to report quarterly on their progress and programs, reports made public.

The ARPA Final Rule Summary in how the money is distributed states:

The program ensures that governments have the resources needed to:

  • Fight the pandemic and support families and businesses struggling with its public health and economic impacts,
  • Maintain vital public services, even amid declines in revenue, and
  • Build a strong, resilient, and equitable recovery by making investments that support long-term growth and opportunity.

For more on Creative Washtenaw

Ann Arbor in process of determining how to allocate the one-time $24.1 million

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