Across Broward, nonprofits are fighting to keep cultural connections alive post COVID-19. For nearly four months, the pandemic has disrupted scheduled programming and caused crippling financial hardship for local institutions.
The Broward Arts Relief Fund initiative aims to “ensure our art and cultural foundations are still here on the other side of this pandemic,” explains Phillip Dunlap, director of the Cultural Division.
Totaling $428,000, these one-time grants have been awarded to 38 organizations central to arts and culture in Broward County. Funding came from sale proceeds of the Florida Arts License Plate Program. These grants focus on preserving “general operations,” especially “staff or people that would otherwise be lost as a result of the pandemic,” explains Dunlap.
Seeing the dramatic fallout following the outbreak, Dunlap quickly made the fund a priority for the division, joining forces with District 5 County Commissioner Steve Geller. As the County’s representative on the Broward Cultural Council for the last two years, Geller quickly understood the urgency. The outbreak hit the region at the high point of the cultural season, which runs “around January through May,” observes the Commissioner. “We lost the last half of that period, with no income coming into these organizations. So, we really needed to do something to make sure they survived.”
At its core, the fund functions equally as a cultural and economic stimulus. The Arts and Economic Prosperity study conducted in 2017, valued Broward’s nonprofit arts and culture sector at $414.2 million. “For every dollar invested in the arts and culture industry, there’s a $9 return,” notes Dunlap. At the best of times, however, the liquid finances of these cultural programs remain insufficient. “Even in a healthy economy, the average American cultural non-profit has less than two months working capital or cash equivalent available.”
In such an environment, these grants aim to keep the lights on until cash flow stabilizes. This was especially important for grant recipients like the New City Players. The ensemble theater group had a stacked May program, including a new production, “Water by the Spoonful.” “But all of those opportunities were lost because of COVID-19,” says Producing Artistic Director Tim Davis.
The Old Dillard Foundation had planned a “Women in Jazz” review as part of its Live at the Arts and Heritage House concert series. Much of the organization’s funding comes from reimbursement grants,” explains Executive Director Dr. Denise St Patrick-Bell. “So, if we can’t do the performance, we don’t get the funding. This grant will help us keep our team and contractors, so when we open up again, we will still be here.”
Larger organizations like the Museum of Discovery and Science also took a harsh financial hit. “Like most science museums, about 70 percent of our annual revenue is generated through earned income, namely admission tickets, birthday parties, gift shop sales and tickets sold to our AutoNation IMAX 3D Theater,” explains Museum President Joseph Cox. In the interim, the grant supports “our museum educators, who are such a vital part of the museum experience.”
True to form, many recipients have begun thinking beyond survival, using the funding to pivot towards more pandemic-proof platforms. Many have created communal experiences while social distancing, like the Broward County Film Society, which launched a drive-in cinema night at Pier Sixty-Six to show crowd favorites like a sing-along version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The digital platforms have become invaluable. The Film Society offers pay-per-view movies and has made contingency plans to transition the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival online if COVID-19 resurges in November, complete with Zoom Q&As with filmmakers. “We hope it doesn’t come to pass, but we will be ready to rock and roll if that’s the only alternative,” says Society President Gregory von Hausch.
Sharing similar goals, the Museum of Discovery and Science launched the MODS Challenge, an eight-week program that challenges PreK-12 students to solve real-world problems through STEM learning. Their virtual Camp Discover videos also bring “hands-on science, from slime-making to animal encounters, into homes each day,” says Cox.
Meanwhile, the New City Players have reframed the theater experience online. In addition to the online storytelling event, City Speaks, and Instagram live interviews with local theater artists, the group is producing five new short plays to perform via Zoom, and a narrative podcast series. “The relief grant will directly support this project, providing compensation to the actors, designers, writer, director, and sound engineer,” says Davis.
The Old Dillard Foundation also translated programs for the web, streaming the Teeny Brainiacs Pre-K education program and its annual Juneteeth concert live, featuring performances by Norris Williams and Melissa Star. Continuing their mission to celebrate Black history and art felt particularly crucial now, as the country also reels from the scourge of police brutality against the Black community, which has sparked civil rights protests across the country. “Historically art has always been a force for social change,” says Dr. St Patrick-Bell. “This is how we share and instill our values as a society.”
The need to preserve vital conversations also drove the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center to continue their projects, especially those focused on Broward’s Holocaust survivor community, one of the largest in North America. “Though our doors are closed, we still did every possible program we could do online,” says President Rositta Kenigsberg. The center held its annual Olga and Eugen Guttman visual art and writing competition, streamed films for an online documentary series, and facilitated a Zoom call with a Holocaust survivor. The crisis “has certainly changed how we work going forward, but it will never change why we do it.”
“I’m so proud of how the community has continued to deliver on their mission in any way that they can,” says Dunlap. “I hope this grant communicates to the community how much we’re committed to the richness and the culture of the people that call Broward home.”
Broward Cultural Division has awarded $428,000 in financial assistance to the following 38 Broward-based non-profit cultural organizations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The one-time grants ranging from $2,500 to $20,000 were awarded to help preserve jobs in Broward County’s arts community. The assistance was provided through the Broward Arts Relief Fund, a newly created supplemental grant program.
Curtain Call Playhouse
Davie School Foundation
Developing Dreams Foundation
Embrace Music Foundation
Ft. Lauderdale Performing Arts
Gay Mens Chorus Of South Florida
Hollywood Art And Culture Center
Island City Stage
Master Chorale Of South Florida
Museum of Discovery and Science
Nova Southeastern University
Slow Burn Theatre Company
The Broward County Film Society / FLIFF
The Fort Lauderdale Childrens Theatre
The Girlchoir Of South Florida
Hallandale Section of CID/UNESCO
All Florida Youth Orchestra
World Aids Museum
South Florida Symphony Orchestra
Opera Guild of Fort Lauderdale
New City Players
Young at Art of Broward.
Coral Springs Museum of Art
Holocaust Documentation & Education Center
Stonewall Library & Archives
Broward Art Guild
Fort Lauderdale Historical Society
Inside Out Theatre Company
Lovewell Institute For The Creative Arts
Floridas Singing Sons
Sample Mcdougald House Preservation Society
Old Dillard Foundation
South Florida Ballet Theatre
Symphony Of The Americas
Women In Music Ayo