Relatively few Quad-Cities artists and arts organizations have received Covid-19 relief funding from Iowa or Illinois, and both states are proceeding in their next round of grant awards.

Illinois Humanities recently gave out 24 emergency relief grants (of $2,500 each) – including the Rock Island-based Midwest Writing Center and Bishop Hill Heritage Association. These general operating (non-project) grants aim to help smaller humanities organizations throughout Illinois to weather the current pandemic.

“Especially in this moment of duress, Illinois Humanities is proud to support not-for-profit organizations that promote the importance of the humanities in private and public life and that inspire collective action and hope,” said Illinois Humanities executive director Gabrielle Lyon.

The grants were given to organizations with budgets of $300,000 or less that are based in Illinois, but outside Chicago. They represent the first of three rounds of Covid-19 relief grants that Illinois Humanities will make between now and the end of October.

Scene from the 2019 Bishop Hill Chautaqua and Carpenter Building rededication.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs (IDCA) just announced that the amount in grants it will distribute to Iowa cultural organizations hit hard by the pandemic now exceeds $1.3 million.

Last month, in the first round of emergency grants, the department awarded a total of $191,000 to 156 Iowa artists (including four in the Q-C) and 14 nonprofit arts organizations (none in the Q-C). The grants were created to support Iowa artists, musicians, filmmakers and other cultural professionals most affected by the pandemic and to serve as a bridge between severe financial loss and other forms of state and federal public assistance.

The next round of IDCA grants will be available to larger arts organizations, with an application deadline of May 26. This third and last round (the second had an application deadline of May 1) will offer grants between $1,000 and $20,000 per group.

The latest rounds of funding come from both the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). As part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, each national endowment received $75 million in funding to distribute as emergency relief to cultural institutions affected by the pandemic.

The Iowa grants are also funded by CARES Act funding through Arts Midwest, a regional arts organization that serves Iowa and eight other Midwestern states.

“NEH is proud to partner with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to administer crucial CARES Act funds to Iowa cultural organizations,” said NEH chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “That IDCA has been selected by both NEH and NEA for this essential role is a true endorsement of their dedication to the people of Iowa and deep roots within the cultural sector.”

“We appreciate Iowa’s Congressional delegation for its unanimous support for these funds, which recognize the vital role the arts, humanities and culture play in the economic and cultural vitality throughout Iowa,” said Chris Kramer, director of the IDCA. “We’re honored to be working with these federal partners and will fast-track grants to Iowa organizations that need this critical support.”
Illinois Humanities grants also come from CARES Act funding to the NEH. Illinois Covid relief grants will provide $635,000 in general operating and program support to  humanities and cultural nonprofits throughout the state. The deadline for general operating support is May 15 and the deadline for program support is June 15.

Writing Center and Bishop Hill operate virtually

The Bishop Hill Heritage Association in Henry County will use its emergency funds to help cover general operating expenses.

“Like many organizations around the nation, the pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the BHHA,” the group said on its website. “Due to the Illinois stay at home order, we had to close our museums, cancel/reschedule events, and restrict the Colony Store to online and phone orders for mail delivery and curbside service.

“Consequentially, we are losing museum admissions, rental income, event income, and store sales,” the site says. “These funds are used to cover operating expenses such as salaries, utilities, insurance, and basic building maintenance, among other things. With the BHHA currently managing 9 buildings in Bishop Hill (5 of them Colony buildings), you can imagine what our normal operating expenses are like.  We have cut expenses, where possible, but that action can only do so much.”

Suggestions for how the public can help include:

  • Maintain your BHHA membership, and encourage others to become members. You can sign up online HERE.
  • Shop online at the Colony Store. The store is the BHHA’s gift shop, so proceeds from the store partially cover the operating expenses. You can also call the store at 309-927-3596.
  • When travel restrictions are loosened or lifted, return to Bishop Hill to visit. Donations are welcomed, by mailing to BHHA, P.O. Box 92, Bishop Hill, IL 61419.

The Midwest Writing Center is moving many programs online, including the annual David R. Collins Writers’ Conference and Young Emerging Writers (YEW) summer internship program.

“While we have not yet received official confirmation from St. Ambrose University about the possibility of having the conference in-person, we are already planning to have it virtually if in-person is not an option,” MWC executive director Ryan Collins said of the June 25-27 conference.

Class meetings will be held via private Zoom meetings, and MWC staff will work with students and faculty to use Google applications for file sharing, posting assignments, group discussion, etc. The free public events will also be held at their regularly scheduled times, and will be available via live-stream, Collins said.

Lyz Lenz

Conference keynote speaker will be Lyz Lenz, who is an author and columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Her public reception is at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, June 25, at the Figge Art Museum (225 W. 2nd St., Davenport), followed by a 7:30 p.m. keynote address, Q & A, and book signing.

Lenz has a new book coming out this summer, “Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women,” as does Kali White VanBaale, who is teaching two workshops at the conference.

MWC is also planning a “virtual book fair” on June 27, and pitches and one-on-one critiques will be scheduled between students and instructors in advance.

The conference registration is open online and by phone (309-732-7330), with early-bird discounts available through June 10.

The registration deadline for the YEW summer internship has been extended until May 20, Collins said. As with the Writers’ Conference, his plan for YEW 2020 is to move forward—either in-person or virtually.

“If we end up moving to a distance learning setting, we will meet in private groups online (via Zoom or another distance learning format),” Collins wrote. “We are still planning to have public virtual events, and are working on some special guests visiting writers and other ways we can use this new format to our advantage and help our interns not only grow creatively and professionally, but to shine more light on the work they’ll be producing at such a unique moment in our lives and our history.”

YEW is geared for students ages 15-19 and the selective seven-week program will be held Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from June 8 to July 22.

Collins has set up private groups for both Writer’s Studio and YEW Studio on Facebook, open to regular attendees of both groups hosted by MWC, and open to any other MWC members, patrons, and Q-C writers looking to share their work in a constructive environment.

A new program – “Write More Light—Live!” debuted on Facebook twice a week (an hour each time), on Tuesdays and Thursdays, through May 7.

“The events are intended to be an opportunity to connect through writing while so many people are at home, and offer a supplement those who are distance learning during the response to Covid-19,” Collins said.

For more information on MWC programs and events, visit mwcqc.org.

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Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.