Small Business Partner Spotlight: The Arts Commission’s Grant Opportunities Provide Safety Net For Local Creatives

Posted on June 25, 2024

by Lindsay Williams, Small Business and Nonprofit Librarian

Art means business. Ohio is full of incredible cultural resources – from the collections of larger art institutions to the contributions of independent creatives. More than 94,000 people are employed by arts-related businesses in our state, and each year creative industries contribute more than $41.4B to Ohio’s economy.

If you’ve met with our team at the Library, you’ve learned the hard truth that grants for profit businesses can be extremely competitive and hard to come by. However, for working artists, one local organization is making a major difference and that’s The Arts Commission.

Toledo Lucas County Rescue Plan Grant for Individual Artists

Contributing to a vibrant Toledo since 1959, Toledo’s Arts Commission is the longest-standing arts commission in the state of Ohio. As the negative effects of COVID-19 on our region’s arts ecosystem deepened, the organization worked alongside Toledo Area Cultural Leaders to advocate for ARPA funding – or dollars via the nation’s larger American Rescue Plan Act initiative.

In response to this crisis, The Lucas County Board of Commissioners, Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, and Toledo City Council joined together in partnership to approve $6 million in ARPA funds to support a multi-year grant program for the recovery of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and artists in Toledo and Lucas County. In the spring of ‘23, the first grants were awarded.

Among the awardees was a local jewelry business owner who had felt the impact of the pandemic across several of her income streams, “Though I had always placed significant focus on diversifying the revenue sources for my handmade jewelry business, the pandemic forced me to more deeply strategize to keep my then five-year-old accessories line in the black. Thanks to a $1,000 grant from The Arts Commission I was able to leverage my marketing skillset toward an effective print outreach campaign to attract new boutique & gallery representation from across the country. Their generous grant stretched further, to provide professional development around production-scaling technologies, and made it possible to implement new studio safety measures.”

The jewelry designer was among the 101 artists to receive a grant during the first of three funding cycles. “The Arts Commission has truly transformed my creative life – before their support, it was rare for me to refer to myself as an ‘artist’. Through support such as the ARPA funding and their earlier investments in my work (for example, the funding of my interactive ‘Story Nook’ project – an 8’ x 23’ community storybook experience), I found not only a renewed confidence in my own abilities, but a greater confidence that a revenue-generating art career in Lucas County is achievable.”

Since that first funding round, an additional $45K was distributed to individual artists in round two and the third funding round of applications just closed last season.

Future Rescue Plan Grant funding rounds will be announced soon – stay tuned here.

When asked how he might advise other artists seeking grant funding to proceed, another Arts Commission grant recipient and local playwright shared, “I love the fact that the Arts Commission built the award I received around just making good art. The tricky thing about that is it leaves me with no particularly useful advice about applying for funds like this apart from: make good art. Which I mean you’re probably trying to do already.”

The aforementioned jeweler and awardee responded with, “Just apply. Really. It is getting over that hurdle, and then getting over it again, and again, and again. As a jewelry designer, the art fair market specifically is incredibly competitive. You can’t give up after the first no because, eventually, it’s going to be a yes!”

The Arts Commission says it best, in their ‘How to Create a Successful Grant Application’ guide, and they say it in all caps: KEEP APPLYING.

Let’s get ready to apply for a grant! 

You’ll find a wealth of resources at your Library, including upcoming Small Business & Nonprofit programs such as:

PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY: PRINCIPLES FOR SMARTPHONES (W) September 25 | 1:30 — 3 p.m. | Main Library | Register

Many artist grant proposals will request work samples, which can be an intimidating hurdle for the non-photographers among us… but it doesn’t need to be! This fall, local product photographer Jen Beachy will lead students through a class exploring universal basic principles for excellent product photography, and how these principles can be applied with your standard smartphone camera. Jen’s portfolio includes work for the Toledo Museum of Art gift shop, so she’s definitely ready to help you make those photos of your artwork shine just as bright as it would when displayed in a gallery!



Looking to get inspired, manage money, master self promotion, write grants, and more? This book collection was curated with artists and creatives in mind: view the list

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