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Arts programs lean on grant money to stay afloat during the pandemic

Published: Nov. 28, 2020 at 9:39 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Canceled shows, classes and performances have left many in the arts struggling to get through the pandemic. As many doors shut, so did main sources of revenue.

In early November, Gov. Tony Evers’ administration announced nearly 400 arts and cultural organizations statewide would get a piece of a $15 million dollar grant through the federal CARES Act.

Kanopy Dance in Madison was awarded just over $47,000 through the Cultural Organization Grant Program. The co-artistic director of the professional dance company and academy, Lisa Thurrell, said along with federal assistance they moved to a virtual class format to get by.

“It’s giving them that joy and passion through the camera even and teaching them really well through the camera. You know it’s not perfect, but hopefully it is inspiring them and they are all still growing as young artists,” Thurrell said.

Thurrell said they currently have about 50 students taking the virtual classes, which is half of their typical size. The dance company scaled back from about 40 classes a week to roughly 20.

“Since the pandemic hit we had to cancel shows at the Overture, the rest of our season as well as everything else. We pivoted as quickly as we could to virtual learning because in-person was impossible,” she said.

The Madison Children’s Museum was awarded roughly $137,000 through the grant. Since closing its doors in March, President and CEO Deb Gilpin said they have cut roughly 80 percent of their staff.

“We are down to a full time equivalent of about nine people and we had 75 employees, so that’s been hard,” Gilpin said.

She said right now they are focused on fundraising $4 million to keep operations going and build a new outdoor playground by June. The grant money received will go toward those efforts.

“We lost virtually all of our revenue, all of our earned revenue, on March 13. So, it is not a small dollar amount and the $137,000 dollars is very helpful,” Gilpin said.

She said they are also hoping for more support from the Federal Legislature as well. While the grant money will not cover everything, both organizations are focused on looking toward the light at the end of the tunnel.

“What I look for is to see all these lovely people dancing their hearts out and audiences back in the seats feeling comfortable to be at events and safe,” Thurrell said.

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