FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 27, 2021) – Several leading statewide Oklahoma cultural organizations tasked with investing funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) have announced they will coordinate efforts to maximize the impact of the federal pandemic relief funds across the state. Signed into law in March, ARP includes funding that will help the nation’s cultural sector reopen and put artists and creatives back to work. The sector has been devastated by the pandemic and has experienced unemployment rates of more than 77 percent in some fields.
Though funds have not yet been made available to them, the Oklahoma Arts Council, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, and Oklahoma Humanities are already discussing how they can work together to realize shared goals. The three organizations–two state agencies and a statewide nonprofit–have a focus on ensuring Oklahomans have access to cultural resources and experiences.
Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said leaders of each of the organizations see tremendous value in working together, especially having gained insight into the challenges and condition of the cultural sector over the course of the pandemic.
Sharples said, “In spring 2020, during the early phase of the pandemic, our three organizations administered an initial round of federal relief funds provided through the CARES Act, which was crucial to helping nonprofit arts and humanities organizations, libraries, and others weather in the short term the immediate, catastrophic impact felt during last year’s lockdown. At that point, we were operating in uncharted territory. A year into the pandemic, as we have a clearer understanding of how the pandemic is affecting organizations, we see ways to maximize the impact of this round of relief funds provided through the American Rescue Plan, so that the sector is better poised for post-pandemic recovery, job retention, and long-term viability.”
Melody Kellogg, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, said the coordinated effort is a way to reduce any duplication and assure as many communities and organizations as possible can benefit. “Libraries and other cultural entities may be eligible for certain grants from all three organizations, and we want to make sure no community in need is left behind,” Kellogg said. “By sharing and coordinating our plans with each other, these federal funds can have a bigger impact on our state’s cultural sector.”
“The pandemic’s economic ramifications for our cultural institutions and their employees have been severe,” said Oklahoma Humanities Executive Director Caroline Lowery. “Museums, universities, libraries, archives, and historic sites across Oklahoma have experienced layoffs, extended closures, and revenue losses. We will work quickly to distribute this much-needed American Rescue Plan relief funding efficiently and equitably across Oklahoma. We are grateful to members of our local delegations for their recognition of the vital role that humanities organizations play in our economy and our communities.”
While each of the three organizations will create separate grant applications with their own sets of criteria, they will maintain communication throughout the process of administering funds and will seek to achieve broad investment that considers factors such as geographic and cultural representation and size and reach of applicant organizations. The goal is to ensure funds reach diverse groups representing the broadest possible range of communities across Oklahoma.
Applications will be available after federal guidelines are published and each organization has created related grant criteria and procedures.
The American Rescue Plan coronavirus pandemic relief package was created by Congress and signed into law on March 11, 2021. Included in the plan are allocations to the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The federal agencies are required to provide a portion of their ARP funds to states through state partner organizations such as the Oklahoma Arts Council, Oklahoma Humanities, and Oklahoma Department of Libraries.
About the Oklahoma Arts Council
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. The Oklahoma Arts Council provides more than 425 grants to nearly 270 organizations in communities statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state's arts and cultural industry, and manages the art collections at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Additional information is available at arts.ok.gov.
About the Oklahoma Department of Libraries
The Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) is the official State Library of Oklahoma. The agency serves the information and records management needs of state government, assists with public library development, coordinates library and information technology projects for the state, and serves the general public through its specialized collections.
About Oklahoma Humanities
Oklahoma Humanities (OH) is an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen communities by helping Oklahomans learn about the human experience, understand new perspectives, and participate knowledgeably in civic life. As the state partner for the National Endowment for the Humanities, OH provides a free educational magazine, Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibits, reading and discussion groups, and other cultural opportunities for Oklahomans of all ages. OH engages people in their own communities, stimulating discussion and helping them explore the wider world of human experience, through humanities disciplines such as history, literature, film studies, ethics, and philosophy. Additional information is available at https://www.okhumanities.org.