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$6 million in ARPA grants available for Toledo artists

Toledo's economic development office said the local arts and culture scene needs extra help after being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Toledo-area artists could be eligible for thousands of dollars from The Arts Commission per year as part of the city's plan to use $6 million dollars in American Rescue Plan Act money to help boost the arts and culture of the Glass City after it was disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local artist Connor Degnan said the money is a much-needed shot in the arm for the art community after the pandemic.

Degnan, the co-owner of the River East Gallery in east Toledo, said that he made some of his best art during the lockdown, but no one was able to see it for almost a year.

"Without the public view being able to come in and feel comfortable around each other and show people paintings and whatnot, it definitely was a challenge," he said.

That challenge has been a major blow financially for all local artists.

According to data from the city of Toledo's economic development office, with venues and galleries closed through the pandemic, the economic output for Lucas County creatives dropped nearly 8% from 2019 to 2020, a huge drop for an industry that brought in nearly $2 billion dollars in 2019.

"We've known for a long time that the creative community in the Toledo region has had an outsized impact on the local economy," Sandy Spang, Toledo's assistant director of Economic Development, said.

But, Spang hopes grants from ARPA money will help stimulate the local arts scene again.

"This program will help them gain from the losses they had during COVID, and be able to grow as they go forward," she said.

The grant application details three different groups that can apply: small medium, and large-sized organizations.

Large institutions like the Toledo Zoo or Toledo Museum of Art are eligible for up to $150,000 per year. But even small organizations with operating budgets of $300,000 dollars or less can be eligible from anywhere between $2,500 and $25,000.

For small owners like Degnan, he said this new program could have a massive positive influence on the local Toledo art scene.

"This kind of funding really would help the arts community in Toledo, which in turn can help everyone," he said. "And the whole community, because I believe that it creates a positive environment for everyone."

The application deadline for grants is Nov. 16.

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