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The Dance Theatre of Harlem is among this year's DCLA grant recipients. (photo via Flickr)

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The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) will distribute $47.1 million in funds to more than 1,000 cultural nonprofits — the agency’s largest-ever number of grant recipients for its annual program — including $10 million in new investments earmarked for COVID-19 relief initiatives and critical support of the cultural community through the ongoing pandemic.

The grants are especially focused on organizations serving BIPOC communities, among the hardest hit by the health crisis, and those providing art education programs, a paramount resource for families this year. Although the 2020 program is slightly smaller than last year’s, which distributed $51.3 million in grants, it is still high by historical standards — the 2018 program, for instance, awarded $43.9 million in grants.

“We can’t address the enormous challenges that lie ahead alone, but we’ve focused on providing long term stability to the smaller organizations that are most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Gonzalo Casals in a statement. “Our cultural community has shown us just how integral it is to the health of our city over these difficult months, and we are committed to collaborating with and supporting this community as we work toward long term renewal and recovery.”

Of the $47.1 million, a total of $28.5 million is included in the agency’s budget for the Cultural Development Fund (CDF), which administers grants to NYC’s nonprofit arts organizations; $12.6 million in new funding will provide much-needed pandemic support, including across-the-board increases for all CDF grantees and larger proportional increases for smaller organizations. Finally, $4.9 million will fund member item discretionary awards to 434 groups; 12 nonprofits located on DCLA-administered property, including the Dance Theatre of Harlem and BRIC Arts Media, will receive $1.1 million in energy subsidies to cover heat, light, and power expenses.

The new investments, an increase over DCLA’s baseline funding, were selected largely in response to the results of a COVID-19 impact survey conducted by the agency earlier this year. Among its findings, the survey determined that the greatest loss of artistic employment due to the pandemic occurred in arts education nonprofits. As such, $750,000 will be allocated to those organizations and to support the Arts Educator Emergency Relief Fund.

In an acknowledgment of the extraordinary hardships faced by the cultural community this year, DCLA’s 2020 annual grant program includes several new features meant to boost access to aid. For example, nearly all of the 1,032 groups currently receiving CDF funding will once again receive comparable support in fiscal year 2022. These multi-year grants are traditionally only available to organizations with budgets over $250k; this time, they’ve been extended to all CDF recipients. The agency has also reduced the matching requirement so that recipients can use city funds to cover up to 75% of a program’s cost.

“The arts and culture sector has been economically devastated by this pandemic and its recovery is vital to the full recovery of our city,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “It’s never been more important to support arts and culture in our city and the City Council is proud to provide these vital grants during this difficult time.”

The complete list of DCLA’s 2020 grant recipients can be found here.

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the Brodsky Scholarship for Latin American...