Oklahoma invested $10 million in ARPA funds to rebuild the arts: Here's how the grants work

The curtain is going up on the process of distributing $10 million in state American Rescue Plan Act funding intended to rebuild Oklahoma's arts and cultural sector.

Nonprofit organizations that were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and offer arts programming that serve their communities now can submit to the Oklahoma Arts Council the required documents for eligibility verification for Oklahoma Arts Sector ARPA Grants. Eligibility verification is open through the end of October.

It's the first step in the rigorous, multi-pronged grant process for dispensing the ARPA funds to aid in the post-COVID recovery of the state's nonprofit arts sector, which was disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

"This transformational investment will pay long-term dividends in creative workforce development, talent retainment, education, and more," Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said in a spring email. "Leadership of the Oklahoma Arts Council and its partner organizations are humbled and honored to be entrusted as stewards of this investment."

How is the $10 million in ARPA funding expected to benefit Oklahoma's economy?   

As the 2023 regular session wound down in May, the state Legislature approved a proposal investing $10 million in state ARPA funds to restoring Oklahoma's arts and cultural sector.  

Spearheaded by the state Arts Council, along with Allied Arts OKC and Arts Alliance Tulsa, the ARPA for Arts and Culture proposal sought a once-in-a-lifetime post-pandemic investment in arts and cultural infrastructure statewide. Organizations like Oklahomans for the Arts and the Oklahoma Museums Association supported the proposal.  

"Arts and culture support workforce development, talent retention and attraction, and placemaking, which are all key factors in economic development. This funding will help Oklahoma’s economy to continue to grow," Allied Arts President and CEO Sunny Cearley said in a statement.

The grant program made possible by the $10 million in ARPA funds is designed to restore and improve organizational resiliency, assist in arts and culture job recovery and workforce development and transform the sector’s infrastructure to continue serving Oklahomans statewide for generations to come.

"With 50 percent of the funding prioritized in our plan for rural communities, it will spark vital community and economic development across all 77 counties," Sharples said in her email.

Canterbury Voices singers rehearse Oct. 19, 2020, in the Joel Levine Rehearsal Room at Civic Center Music Hall, where they were taking extra precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonprofit arts organization used measures like checking singers' temperatures, spacing out the performers, cutting the size of its flagship adult chorus in half and supplying singers with special masks to keep performing during the pandemic.

What organizations can apply for the Oklahoma Arts Sector ARPA Grants?

Organizations that may be eligible for Oklahoma Arts Sector ARPA Grants include local arts councils, museums, social or community service programs, performing arts presenters, community theaters, symphony orchestras, history and heritage centers and festivals with arts programming.

Other nonprofits that offer arts programs that serve their communities also are encouraged to apply.

Organizations must have been affected by the pandemic and in existence as of Feb. 15, 2020, with a minimum operating budget of $10,000.

Music Director Alexander Mickelthwate wears a mask while conducting the Oklahoma City Philharmonic in concert during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Music Director Alexander Mickelthwate wears a mask while conducting the Oklahoma City Philharmonic in concert during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do organizations apply for the Oklahoma Arts Sector ARPA Grants?

All organizations interested in applying for the grants must first create a user account in the grant portal. Once they receive login information, they will be able to log in and submit documents for eligibility verification.

The required documents include the organization’s 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS, 990 form, Oklahoma certificate of incorporation with articles of incorporation and board-approved bylaws.

The deadline to submit all documents for eligibility verification is 5 p.m. Oct. 31.

All organizations must go through the verification process so that the Oklahoma Arts Council can confirm their eligibility to apply for an Oklahoma Arts Sector ARPA Grant.

Once verified, organizations will be able to apply for funding starting in November.

Verified eligible organizations will be able to apply for the grants between Nov. 1 and Dec. 15. Then, panelists will review the applications and make recommendations regarding the distribution of the ARPA funds.

Allowable uses for the funding include the recovery of financial losses from the pandemic, capital upgrades, salaries for arts-related personnel, fees for artists and other contract personnel supporting artistic services, operational expenses, organizational development and training, marketing, expanded arts programming and more.

Full grant guidelines and details about eligibility criteria are available at https://arts.ok.gov/ARPA_Grant.html.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Here's how $10 million in ARPA funds for Oklahoma arts will be granted