The New Art Center in Newton had a loss of revenue totaling up to $400,000 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Emily O’Neil, the executive director of the center. A recent $75,000 grant split between local organizations and nonprofits has helped the center make up for some of those losses.
“I’ve had expenses that were higher than anticipated,” O’Neil said. “There’s such a demand in the constructed job market. It’s hard to hire people, … and that puts my budget into a wreck.”
The City of Newton recently distributed a $75,000 grant to various local groups, including Newton Community Pride, the Newton Theatre Company, Jewish Arts Collaborative, as well as other arts and cultural centers. The grant recipients received funds after filling out an application about the impact COVID-19 had on their organization, according to O’Neil.
Blair Sullivan, the executive director of Newton Community Pride, a non-profit arts organization in the city, said she was excited to hear about the new funds.
“We were thrilled when Mayor Fuller announced that there was going to be recovery funds directed towards the creative sector,” Sullivan said. “We hopped on that and applied as soon as we could, and we were thrilled to be awarded it.”
O’Neil said the City of Newton matched state funds to create a larger grant total.
“The state probably allocated $23,000 last year, and the city matches that,” O’Neil said. “Mayor Fuller is the first mayor in Newton’s history to do that.”
According to O’Neil, the application process went quickly. The New Art Center had about 30 days to fill out the application and heard back about receiving grant funds in two to three weeks, she said.
“That’s a very short turnaround—a very short process—which we appreciated greatly,” O’Neil said. “As an organization, to hear back within three weeks or a month was pretty significant for us.”
Newton Community Pride received $11,485 from the grant, and the New Art Center received $6,485.
“We were awarded the grants to help with personnel as well as to offer our free programming,” Sullivan said. “So it’s definitely covering staffing, but it’s also helping us to push through our free programming since we weren’t able to fundraise like we used to.”
O’Neil said that while the grant doesn’t cover the entirety of the center’s lost revenue, it helped cushion some of the organization’s expenses.
Many of the organizations are also using the grant money to work toward bigger projects. O’Neil said the New Art Center plans to use the funds to help achieve its long-term goal of having a co-op store for artists in Newton.
“Last fiscal year, I had no money in the budget for that store,” O’Neil said. “We decided probably eight months ago that it would be great to have a store, but we just kind of made it up. … There were some hard costs associated with running that store, and we will use some of these funds to kind of pay ourselves back.”
Similarly, Sullivan said that Newton Community Pride is hoping to use some of the grant funds to put on its WinterFEST show in February.
“We are currently organizing for our WinterFEST,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to have all of the kids and some other special guests, giant puppets, and we’ll be passing out hot cocoa and cookies. So we’re just trying to bring back joy and fun and art and creativity to the city of Newton.”
O’Neil said the grant affirms the importance of the arts in Newton.
“In many ways, that is … probably the most important message that the mayor’s office is sending out—that there’s a value to arts and culture,” O’Neil said. “And Mayor Fuller put the money where her mouth is on that. And that’s great.”
Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / Heights Senior Staff