City gives artists, art nonprofits $5M in federal relief money

$4M for 46 nonprofit art organizations, and $1M for 136 individual artists

SAN ANTONIO – Following a pandemic that cost them more than $50 million combined, the San Antonio City Council approved the final list on Thursday of 46 local nonprofit art organizations and 136 artists to split $5 million in federal relief dollars.

“We’re not offering them a handout. We’re offering them a hand up so that they can continue what they’ve been doing,” said District 9 Councilman John Courage, ahead of Thursday’s 9-1 vote.

The vast majority of groups (85%) and artists (90%) who applied to the city for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money received it. The city had a variety of eligibility criteria, but all of the applicants had to show a “disproportionate” COVID-19 impact.

The eligible nonprofits, which include theaters, museums, and art education groups, had reported $47 million worth of losses, according to the city. Now they’ll get $4 million worth of grants, ranging from $3,261 for “The AM Project” to $261,986 for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, which is one of 11 “culturally specific” organizations that had a chance to get extra money.

The professional artists had reported $3.5 million in losses and will now split $1 million, with each receiving $7,200 to $7,500.

The city said the majority of them are either musicians (39%) or visual artists (34%).

Author Xelena Gonzalez said it was “a big relief” to learn she’d be getting the money. A big portion of her income derives from being a visiting author, she said, and her gigs all disappeared “overnight” when the pandemic first arrived.

“I think, like with all artists, you know, unless you have the basics secured - home and safety and food and those sorts of things - it’s hard to really, you know, dream bigger and kind of create art,” Gonzalez said.

The city said creating new works and meeting housing and living expenses were the two most common planned expenditures for the individual artists, while paying their employees and funding existing programs topped the list for the nonprofit groups.

Jon Hinojosa, the president of SAY Si and a member of the Culture and Arts United for San Antonio (CAUSA) steering committee, had supported splitting the $5 million between art agencies and individual artists.

SAY Si, which offers free art education for local students, will now get the third highest grant amount, $256,128, which he called “vital and important to us.”

“It’s going to support our staff. It’s going to support new staff. It’s going to support the funding and support that we have to build,” Hinojosa said.

The council’s decision to spend part of the $327 million pot of the ARPA recovery fund was not new. It passed a “spending framework” in February for the $199.4 million in ARPA dollars it had left, including the $5 million for arts.

Then, in June, council members approved the specifics of the grant program.

However, that didn’t keep District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry from being the lone vote against the final list of grant recipients Thursday. The Northeast Side councilman has been a consistent proponent of using more federal relief dollars to help small businesses.

“So I’m still sticking by my guns that this money should have been added to the small business community and competed just like other small businesses for this - for these opportunities,” Perry said.

District 5 Councilwoman Teri Castillo was not present at Thursday’s meeting.

The city has another $7.2 million set aside for art organizations, events, and artists in the FY 2023 budget.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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