Responding to the financial plight of our county’s artists and arts institutions, due to COVID-19, the nonprofit organization Arts Orange County recently announced the establishment of the “OC Arts & Culture Resilience Fund.”

Working with the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF), the fund provides financial relief to individual artists, art venues, community-based performance groups and major performing institutions in the O.C. — the latter including the Irvine Barclay Theater. These funds will enable these entities to continue to survive and hopefully thrive, while creating artworks, exhibitions and performances for the enjoyment and enrichment of the public.

A comprehensive survey of  O.C. arts organizations (not including individuals) conducted by Arts Orange County in April concluded that they experienced a $16 million financial blow. That dollar amount is likely higher today, according to Richard Stein, the organization’s president and CEO.

Photo courtesy of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center

Soon after completing that survey, Arts OC reached out to OCCF to establish the Resilience Fund to provide needed money to more than 50,000 OC artists, including musicians, actors, dancers, filmmakers, teaching artists and people working behind the scenes in the arts. The fund will also aid our county’s many nonprofit arts organizations.

The Orange County Community Foundation, headed by Shelley Hoss, president and CEO, is a countywide philanthropic organization. In an email interview, Hoss explains, “OCCF supports the philanthropic goals of individuals, families and private foundations, and addresses the greatest challenges of the Orange County community in partnership with local nonprofit organizations.” The organization also helps veterans and at-risk teens and addresses issues of equity, homelessness, health and wellness, and education. As the number 10 grantmaker among 780 U.S. community foundations, OCCF has worked with Arts Orange County since its founding.

The OC Arts and Culture Resilience Fund was announced to the public on June 22 with $150,000 in seed money, with a goal of $500,000. The fund will provide bridge grants to arts organizations to retain essential staff and to provide online programming and instruction, along with financial assistance to individual creative artists.

Creative artists and nonprofit arts organizations are invited to apply for bridge loans and grants.

Photo courtesy of the Bowers Museum

Individuals who wish to receive funds from OCCF must have their primary residence in Orange County, California, and they must work professionally or vocationally in local arts.

In addition, the official description of individual artists eligible to receive money from the OC Arts and Culture Resilience Fund is as follows: “Artists will have been an active participant in the arts community (those whose life’s work is the arts, regardless of the income derived from work in the arts) and has experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19 because of: cancelled performances, exhibitions, programs, classes, organizational closures, or loss of non-arts supplemental income or job. Actors, artists, choreographers, costumers, craftspeople, curators, dancers, designers, directors, exhibit preparators, musicians, stage technicians, writers, and others employed in arts & culture professions are eligible to apply.” And they must be 21 years of age or older.

Organizations and individuals applying for these funds should log onto or call (714) 336-0920. Charitable Ventures, launched in 2007, encourages the growth of innovative regional nonprofits and to build the capacity of the nonprofit sector, has fiscally sponsored more than 60 community projects and regional initiatives since inception.

Photo courtesy of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts

In addition to the Irvine Barclay Theater, nonprofit arts organizations in Irvine include: Chamber Music OC, Choral Arts Initiative, EKTAA Center, Festival Ballet Theatre, Hope Center for the Arts, Maple Youth Ballet, Musical Theatre Village, National Choreographers Initiative, OC Music & Dance, Pacific Symphony, Philharmonic Society, Pretend City Children’s Museum and Southern California Children’s Chorus.

In a phone interview, Arts OC’s CEO Richard Stein was positive and encouraging about the future of the arts in Orange County. “These are very dark days for the arts community, literally and figuratively, so our OC Arts and Culture Resilience Fund is intended to help try to get them through the worst of it,” he said. “But I know that when they are able to reopen safely for their artists and audiences, we will witness a renaissance in the arts, much like what followed the historic dark ages in Europe, and it will be unlike anything we have experienced before —  a time of healing, a time of joy and a brilliant new era of discovery.”

Photo courtesy of the All American Boys Chorus