The Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners kicked off the month of March by designating the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod (AFCC) as the region’s arts agency. In doing so, the AFCC joins more than 4,500 local arts agencies throughout the country that are focused on supporting and sustaining their community’s arts and culture sectors.
It also allows the AFCC the authority to regrant public sector dollars and receive National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding. In February, the AFCC applied for a $108,000 NEA grant. Of that, the AFCC would subgrant out $100,000 and match that amount, distributing a total of $200,000 for arts projects in Barnstable County.
The first time the commissioners approved this temporary designation was in July 2021, a vote that enabled the AFCC to receive a $150,000 NEA grant to assist the sector’s Covid-19 recovery. AFCC Executive Director Julie Wake updated the commissioners at their meeting on March 1 that the nonprofit distributed $139,000 of that federal funding in September to 14 arts organizations on Cape Cod, with grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.
The AFCC followed that up by distributing over $120,000 in grants and sponsorships which went to 58 artists and arts organizations last month through the nonprofit’s annual grant-making process. “Over the pandemic, we definitely recognized individual artists were suffering along with cultural organizations so the AFCC has made a lot of effort to really dig deep into what the sector needs,” Wake said. “Our job at the Arts Foundation has really been to elevate the profile of Cape Cod arts and our artists. We’ve been doing that through funding programs such as the Creative Exchange.”
That AFCC program, which received a boost thanks to a $400,000 state earmark in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding in December 2021 along with a $50,000 grant from the Cape Cod Foundation, is focused on providing professional and personal development for artists and creative workers on Cape Cod. “I add personal development because it goes hand-in-hand with professional development, especially as we enter this new post-pandemic environment where we’re seeing that the sector needs a lot more than just professional development,” Wake stressed. “We all have to recognize the community is in need of the arts and the arts need us.”
The commissioners agreed with that sentiment, unanimously voting to approve a memorandum of understanding with the AFCC. Along with the regional designation, the document delineates the AFCC’s responsibilities which include its annual grant making; managing the Creative Exchange program; participating, supporting, and leading in community cultural planning as well as assessing the community’s cultural needs; advocating and promoting arts-friendly policies to ensure funding and government polices which support the arts and arts education on Cape Cod; and forging community partnerships that support the arts as an economic driver for Cape Cod.
Commissioner Ronald Bergstrom of Chatham, lauded the AFCC for its work, stressing that the arts are “an important part of what Cape Cod is all about. We appreciate what you’ve done.”
“If anybody wants to question the importance of the arts, the Cape Cod Commission did a study of the arts [in December 2019] and their impact on the economy,” said Commissioner Sheila Lyons of Wellfleet. “They all point to the same direction — it is an important endeavor, and we need the arts, especially in the world we live in.”
Board Chair Mark Forest of Yarmouth presented Wake with a citation on behalf of the commissioners that recognized the AFCC’s temporary designation which extends from March of this year to March 2024.