The Kentucky Arts Council is launching a new grant program to fund arts experiences for underserved populations. The first fiscal year of funding for the new Arts Access Assistance program will go to programs and organizations offering “creative aging and lifelong learning” arts programs for senior citizens across the state.
"There’s great evidence to support the fact that arts are beneficial, both for life and health of older Americans," says program director Sarah Schmitt.
The goal for the program is to work with community-based groups who are already working with the underserved populations in question to fund arts experiences and participation.
"We wanted to be actively promoting those ideas and reaching those people, those organizations, those community-based groups that are already working with older Kentuckians, that have that knowledge and that have the systems already in place, and to provide them some money to do some beneficial arts programming," she says.
The Arts Council created this new stream of funding to help remove barriers—like geography, age, disability and income—that can prevent communities and groups from experiencing or participating in the arts. The emphasis will change every year because the arts council wants the program to be flexible enough to respond to the state’s changing needs.
“Every year we analyze who is being served by each of our other programs to determine where the gaps are. Every year it might be something different," says Schmitt. "There’s geographic limitations—we’ve only served a certain area of the state. Another year it may be we’ve done well by youth in the state, but we’re not achieving lifelong learning because we've neglected older Kentuckians.”
Schmitt says the Arts Council is targeting environments where arts aren't the primary emphasis, like health departments, social service agencies, assisted living facilities and public libraries—not arts venues. Arts organizations that already receive annual operating support funds from the council aren't eligible to apply for these grants.
"We didn’t want to have the usual suspects," she says. "Whether the focus is on people in correctional facilities or people in certain geographical areas, the idea is getting the arts to places where arts aren’t the emphasis. "
Organizations can request up to $10,000 and must partner with professional artists or arts administrators to implement their programs. The deadline for applications is January 15. Guidelines and applications are available online.