Fueling the Next Phase in Creativity: Charlotte’s Arts and Culture Program Boosts Local Artists, Seeds Plan with Opportunity Fund Grants

Fueling the Next Phase in Creativity: Charlotte’s Arts and Culture Program Boosts Local Artists, Seeds Plan with Opportunity Fund Grants

How the City’s $3M Grant Program and $36M Investment Transforms the Arts Landscape and Enriches the Community

CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 27, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The City of Charlotte and its partners are taking bold steps to ensure a thriving, equitable future for arts and culture through its Arts and Culture Plan and the innovative Opportunity Fund grants. Since 2021, the City of Charlotte, Foundation For The Carolinas, and other private donors have allocated $36 million through the Infusion Fund, a three-year partnership to stabilize the local arts and culture sector and dedicate dollars to artists and communities that had historically been underserved. While providing a mix of unrestricted and restricted funding to organizations and individual creatives, the city’s arts and culture advisory board, which allocates funding, and a community steering group also developed the Charlotte Arts and Culture Plan — a long-term plan to sustain and grow arts and culture in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County over the next ten years.

As part of this effort, the Infusion Fund created the Opportunity Fund grant — a unique, timely project grant initially offered monthly to prioritize artists’ timelines rather than funders’ timelines. The Opportunity Fund grants catalyze community development and cultural enrichment. By providing equitable, accessible, and inclusive funding, the program ensures historically marginalized groups have the resources to thrive. The city’s commitment extends beyond funding, with strategies to provide affordable spaces, eliminate barriers to participation, and enhance visibility through effective communication. In its first year alone, Opportunity Fund grants provided approximately $1.6 million to nearly 70 artists and groups to catalyze near-term projects, programs, and initiatives.

This month, with nearly $1.2 million awarded to 35 artists and groups, this cycle of the Opportunity Fund initiative launches implementation of the broader 10-year plan designed to sustain and cultivate the local arts and culture scene, enriching the community and supporting diverse artistic expression. The funded projects will advance 13 strategies across five of the eight priorities in the plan, including Access to Affordable Space, Fostering Collaboration, and Enhancing Arts Education.

Priya Sircar, the city’s first arts and culture officer, emphasized the objective: “Our goal is to create a sustainable and inclusive arts and culture ecosystem where creativity can flourish and everyone can participate. That means trying new things as we evolve for the next decade.”

Since the Infusion Fund was announced in 2021, the city and its private sector partners, including the Foundation For The Carolinas and several private foundations and corporations, have given $36 million to fund local arts and culture. Giovanna Torres used her 2023 Opportunity Fund grant to launch Charlotte’s first-ever Latino Film Festival, showcasing 11 award-winning Latino films in April 2024. “I was ecstatic to know that the panel reviewers and the city believe in the project. They see the importance behind it and they see it as a meaningful investment.”

Similarly, Charlotte’s Poet Laureate Junious “Jay” Ward created a professional development program for local poets. Thanks to the grant, 40 poets gained valuable skills and learned more about the business side of their craft. Ward said, “The grant not only made it possible for it to happen, but made it feasible. . . It is tremendously important that these funds exist, that there is access to these funds, and that artists know about them and take advantage of applying.”

These successes reflect the broader impact of the Infusion Fund on Charlotte’s arts scene, fostering creativity and community engagement and advancing other modes of support. For example, this spring, applicants were provided one-on-one coaching by grant writing experts, paid by the Fund to help applicants strengthen their proposals and grant-seeking skills. In addition to financial aid, the latest awardees will receive guidance and support from a research team at UNC Charlotte who will help them measure and evaluate the impact of their projects and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority will amplify marketing of the funded projects.

Sircar highlighted, “Arts and culture are essential to the vibrancy and cohesion of our community. They not only bring people together and enhance social ties, but they also contribute millions of dollars to our local economy and improve the quality of life for all residents.”

While there has been a recent pattern of disinvestment in arts and culture around the country, Charlotte stands out by pioneering a program that has not only boosted funding and other support for artists, aiming to create a dynamic and supportive environment, but also recently stepping up its public funding for arts, which is in keeping with the first recommendation in the Arts and Culture Plan. On June 10, the city approved an $11 million investment to create a sustainable arts ecosystem with an additional $10 million from Mecklenburg County, for a total commitment of $21 million from the public sector.

“Between the historic, increased public funding for arts and culture and the new methods of support like the Opportunity Fund, we think we’ve laid a strong foundation for the continued growth and sustainability of arts and culture,” Sircar said. “Hopefully we inspire other funders — locally and perhaps elsewhere — to try new approaches.”

Mary Cullen
[email protected]

SOURCE City of Charlotte Arts and Culture

Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fueling-the-next-phase-in-creativity-charlottes-arts-and-culture-program-boosts-local-artists-seeds-plan-with-opportunity-fund-grants-302183570.html
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