It started as a relatively small idea to help fund one-time events, but it has grown into something with the potential to have a long-term impact on arts communities around the city.
ArtsBuild's grants program also has become more nimble, able to give money to an organization any time during the year.
"We started the rolling-grant process last summer," says Julie Jackson, ArtsBuild director of development and communications
In the past, the organization's grant process was built around a static deadline so groups had to plan ahead when making grant requests. If you missed the fall deadline to get money for a spring event, you were out of luck. Now the ArtsBuild staff is able to accept and process an application within a couple of days at any time.
In order to ensure the organization's Community Cultural Connections Grants process and mission were being properly administered, ArtsBuild hired a consulting company to look at it last year. The examination found that the grants program was indeed doing what it was designed to do and reaching the people it should, but it needed to be more flexible. The result has been the implementation of the rolling-grant process.
When ArtsBuild created the Community Cultural Connections Grants in 2012, it was designed to reach arts organizations and community groups or events that were not traditionally associated with the decades-old arts advocacy organization. Funding came from contributions by Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd and the Lyndhurst Foundation, still the source of money for the grant program.
That first year, it gave 19 grants of up to $2,000 each to organizations such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which wanted to take 50 young girls from urban Chattanooga to see the arts and arts venues. Money also was given to In His Hand Church, which wanted youth in the Westside Community to create a mural.
"The goal is to reach people in the community that we don't reach normally," says Rodney Van Valkenburg, director of grants and initiatives at ArtsBuild. "It's been successful in that regard."
Since that first year, ArtsBuild has awarded $158,000 in the form of 66 grants to 58 different groups. That represents 1,716 hours of art instruction to 5,548 participants in Hamilton County. Ninety percent of those participants live in low-income families.
There are some limitations on what the grants can be used for. They're primarily designed for one-time or short-term events like festivals, performances or exhibits. They cannot be used for construction or building improvements or equipment purchases. Nor can they be used for seed money to start a new organization or for fundraising.
Jackson says the Community Cultural Grants have exceeded even their most optimistic hopes.
"It has absolutely has. We've been able to reach an entirely new demographic."
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.
Spring 2015 Community Cultural Grant recipients
› A Different Touch to provide art instruction for juveniles at the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center.
› Chattanooga Housing Authority to provide low-income residents a means of transportation and admission to cultural events.
› East Lake Expression Engine to expand a youth musical arts program for up to 80 local students.
› East Lake Neighborhood Association to create a wall mural along Dodds Avenue painted by local artist Seven.
› Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga to produce a festival of short plays highlighting different cultural themes.
› Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga to provide art therapy for homeless families with children.
› Hart Gallery to create portable, pocket-sized and waterproof art supply packs for homeless families, hospice clients and hospitalized children.
› La Paz to host arts and crafts workshops for women in the Latino community.
› Native American Services of Tennessee to establish an annual event to bring Native American musical performances to the Chattanooga area.
› Renaissance Presbyterian Church Literacy Arts Program to host artistic and creative-thinking classes taught by local artists for low-income children.
› The Salvation Army ReCreate Café to expand the work of Playback Theatre and prepare for regular performances throughout the community.
› Senior Arts Council to offer opportunities for senior citizens to attend and participate in cultural events and activities.
› SPLASH to establish a summer art program, teaching easel painting and drawing to over 100 students.
An application and more information on Community Cultural Connections Grants can be found on the ArtsBuild website at arts build.com.