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City Council Approves Use of Vision Arts Funds as COVID-19 Recovery Grants for Tulsa Organizations

Tulsa Arts Commission

Arts nonprofits in Tulsa financially strained by the COVID-19 pandemic could soon have access to thousands of dollars in recovery grants.

The Tulsa City Council approved the use of up to $300,000 in public funding from the Vision Arts program for the recovery grants. The program gets $150,000 a year from the Vision sales tax package to award as grants for art projects that contribute to tourism or economic development.

Councilor Phil Lakin recently proposed using the money as zero-interest loans to keep arts organizations afloat but said he realized some nonprofits are not set up to take out loans, and closing costs could take up to 10% of what’s borrowed.

"If we were trying to award $300,000 in loans, we may have to pay $30,00 … just in the form of hard closing costs, costs that are related to just closing any loan that’s out there on the market. And that’s a ton of money," Lakin said.

Grants could help arts organizations cover bills, pay for safety expenses needed to reopen during the pandemic or even promote online content. Tulsa Arts Commission member Holly Becker said awards will be based on whether organizations pulling in more or less than $400,000 in donations.

"So, this is not total revenue. It will not include ticket sales, program fees, those types of earned revenue expenses. It’s just donations," Becker said.

Organizations with less than $400,000 in donations would get grants of no less than $5,000, while those with more than $400,000 in donations would get grants of no more than $20,000.

Applications should open May 12. Organizations must have revenue declines of at least 20% during the COVID-19 pandemic to apply.

The approval process will be the same as it is for the regular Vision Arts program, with a nine-member, independent panel reviewing applications.

Funding could go out as soon as early June.

Organizations primarily offering social services, stand-alone or one-time events, religious-based activities, or groups that are part of a larger institution are not eligible.

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