Updated: May 15
A new year always brings hope for growth and possibilities, and as we settle into 2023, Creative Greensboro has announced the 18 local arts and culture nonprofits to benefit from its first Sustaining Creativity: Community Partnerships Grant. All 18 grant recipients will receive $20,000, out of which seven will be awarded an additional $5,715 bonus for excellence in creative vibrancy or community benefit. Issuing a total of $400,005, the city’s arts and culture office is following through with its Cultural Arts Master Plan in which recommendations were made to set aside this level of resources in support of arts and culture nonprofits.
“It’s a meaningful amount of money for anyone, but for a smaller organization, it’s potentially transformative,” said Creative Greensboro’s Chief Creative Economy Officer Ryan Deal. “And one of the hallmarks of this program is that it did not matter how big the organization was, everyone was eligible for the same amount of money.” Part of Creative Greensboro’s intention has included demonstrating to the community what it can look like to be more mindful of an equitable distribution of resources even when the amount may be limited. Among the list of grant recipients are Casa Azul of Greensboro, Hirsch Wellness Network, and Reconsidered Goods.
A well-loved organization known for its tremendous work in promoting Latin American art and culture, it is no secret Casa Azul of Greensboro accomplishes much of its work on an absolute shoestring budget. Being among the recipients is enormous for the organization in addition to being the first time it receives this kind of money since becoming a nonprofit in 2016. “We rely a lot on volunteers and onboard members doing a lot of the work,” said Claudia Femenias of Casa Azul of Greensboro. “This will allow us to maintain a part-time person that we have who has been pivotal, has been key to coming back from the pandemic and helping us with programming.”
The nonprofit is also looking to extend the use of its funds into hiring additional personnel including a part-time director of operations whom Femenias hopes will lead the organization towards more sustainability. Due to past limited resources, the organization has been continuously holding some of its same programs, but with the help of the grant, new programming is now possible along with establishing a greater presence for Casa Azul of Greensboro. “The key is not only the amount of money but that the organization has the freedom to use it however we feel will help us the most,” said Femenias.
A healing arts and cancer support community, the Hirsch Wellness Network is known for its arts and culture programming geared towards the support of cancer patients and their families and caregivers. While receiving a grant of this magnitude is not new to the organization, it is the first time for the nonprofit to be recognized in this manner by funds from the City of Greensboro. “The significance of the grant highlights art as a healing tool, and how we have been cultivating this, hiring local artists to do this work all these years knowing the benefits it brings to people touched by cancer,” said founder Louise Grape.
All therapeutic arts and wellness programs offered by the Hirsch Wellness Network are free to any patient, caregiver, medical personnel, and really any individual at any level of survivorship, including folks who have lost a loved one to cancer. Like so many other teaching and workshop platforms, the arrival of the pandemic forced the organization’s activities to transfer from in-person settings to strictly online classes. However, the transition blew up the nonprofit’s activity positively, increasing participant attendance by about 40 percent which required Hirsch Wellness Network to add to their programming.
With a combination of instructors who volunteer their services and other artists and facilitators whom the organization compensates, receiving the grant will allow Hirsch Wellness Network to meet additional pending needs, sustain itself, and continue to grow in its outreach. Grape is eager for the program to spread the word about its services further, particularly to areas in the community where people who may need the nonprofit’s services are unaware of its existence. As it continues to work its way out of the pandemic, the organization has already begun programming a few in-person classes, which many of its participants have been eagerly anticipating. However, it will not stop offering online programs.
“What we have learned is that so many cancer patients or caregivers can’t come in person, whether they don’t feel well, or they don’t live here, or they’re caring for someone,” said Grape. “But they sure can go in another room and take a class, get rejuvenated, connect and meet people.” The nonprofit differs from other arts-based programs because it’s not about the end product, but about the process of making that end product, a healing process in itself. While the organization mostly serves participants in the greater Guilford County area, it also serves patients all over the nation and will mail art supplies to those in need in order for them to have access to its services.
Lastly, Reconsidered Goods, a creative reuse center, is one of the seven organizations receiving a bonus for community benefit in addition to the set grant amount. While the nonprofit is still fairly young as it moves into its seventh year, this by far is the largest grant it has ever been awarded. “What this is going to do for us is really get us on the escalator instead of the stairs,” said Executive Director Catena Bergevin. “Now we’re going to have the opportunity to build out a larger event space so that we can do more in-house events, professional development, field trips, we’ll have much more space to accommodate more people.”
Additional investments will include ensuring everyone on staff has CPR training, the development of a new website, partner and community outreach, the continuing development and expansion of education programs, and even the acquisition of a mobile unit in order to reach out to communities Reconsidered Goods is currently not able to get to. “We see ourselves as environmental sustainability through the arts, through creativity,” said Bergevin. “And we think that creativity plays a really big role in environmental awareness, so the fact that we’re even part of this grant program means a lot to us.”
As the City of Greensboro and the awarded 18 nonprofits celebrate the distribution of this first-time grant, Deal is eager to bring more awareness to the arts and culture organizations in the city and the vibrant community they create. “It’s important for us to support organizations doing this work, they are small businesses, they are employers in our community, and they produce events that audiences come out to,” said Deal. “They contribute to our quality of life, and they help our city through a very real economic impact through the jobs they create for our community.”
DALIA RAZO is a bilingual journalist, fine arts educator, and doctoral student at UNCG.