Applications are now being accepted for this year’s State of the Arts Opportunity Grants. Created and administered by the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, these grants bolster up-and-coming artistic organizations, stimulating growth and encouraging progress.
Unlike the Tourist Development Cultural/Arts (TDC/A) grants or John Ringling Towers Fund grants, which assist established tourism-boosting artistic organizations or individual professional artists, respectively, Opportunity grants serve to develop smaller endeavors that are on their way up.
“There are a lot of arts and cultural organizations in Sarasota County that are important to the community, but are not big enough or have not been around long enough to demonstrate that they can attract tourists,” said Jim Shirley, executive director for the Arts and Cultural Alliance. “Opportunity grants are a way that we’re able to offer support for more of these artistic organizations and help make this a greater community.”
Funded mainly by sales of the State of the Arts license plates - $20 from each purchase – Opportunity grants are typically smaller than those awarded from the “bed” tax, which funds TDC/A grants.
The grants range up to $5000 and are open only to qualified organizations.
Applicants must be 501(c)(3) non-profits and they must operate in Sarasota and have done so for at least a year. Candidates must also prove the artistic purpose of their proposed projects, which means both articulating artistic merit and demonstrating community involvement. Lastly but importantly, they must establish administrative competence.
Even then, those awarded grants receive only 75% of their fund up-front, collecting the remaining 25% upon completion of the project and validation of the use of previously received funds.
“There are always checks and balances,” said Shirley. “And that’s important.”
Past success stories include the Sarasota Folk Festival, which has seen fantastic growth year-to-year with help from Opportunity grants, and the Artist Series Concerts, which used the Opportunity grant as a stepping-stone to grow and apply for a TDC/A grant the following year. Last year 15 organizations applied and 11 received grants.
The deadline for applications this year is August 29. Winners will be selected in September and grants awarded at a presentation in the Van Wezel auditorium on October 20.
Original article published June 19, 2014 by SRQ Daily.