King County offers $20 million in economic COVID-19 relief for cultural and creative arts industry

Most of the cultural and creative arts industry across the region was silenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several venues are still struggling to reopen and part of that is due to expenses. King County announced $20 million in economic support towards recovery from the pandemic.

Vivian Hua, executive director of Northwest Film Forum, said the grant opportunity is necessary and could be the lifeline for some area venues. NWFF, based in Seattle, just opened its doors a week ago for the first time in the last year and a half.

"Reopening is just difficult in general. There’s a lot of unforeseen costs that we need to think about and capacity building that we really need support on," said Hua. "Reopening is super uncertain. We’re at 50 percent capacity, but we need more people to be able to even do that. So, we’re able to serve less people but need to spend more at the same time."

The NWFF team prepared for their Local Sightings Film Festival, the theater’s first public event since pre-pandemic. The hybrid event features filmmakers across the Pacific Northwest. Hua said they hope the event brings in some revenue after being closed for so long. She said NWFF plans to apply for the county’s Arts and Culture Fund to support their reopening efforts.

"The money needs to come from somewhere and it’s not going to come from 50 percent or less capacity of our patrons coming even if we sell out every event. So, we kind of don’t have a choice but to apply for grants like this," said Hua.

The county’s Creative Economy and Recovery department said goals of the Arts and Culture Fund include getting people back to work, supporting economic growth, attracting tourism and helping revitalize the industry. Grants are available in the following categories:

  • $16.5 million for arts, culture and heritage organizations
  • $1.5 million for science organizations
  • $1 million for independently owned and operated music venues
  • $500,000 for independently owned and operated movie theaters

Hua said it is important to bring the arts back to life, as art has been used as a form of relief for some people dealing with the challenges of the pandemic.

"Especially as a film organization, it’s very important that we open our doors and give people a sense of community and get those stories out there," said Hua. "That’s what artist do, right? Artists do adapt to times and we make work to speak to the moment. And I think that’s very important in what we’re doing now. And it’s important that people recognize that art is a vehicle for talking about these otherwise difficult to speak of issues."

The county said grant sizes will vary. Applications are open through October 18, and a panel will review them beginning October 19. King County will notify applicants within five weeks after the deadline. More information, including qualification criteria and the application is available on the county’s website.

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