Arts Alert: MCA Supports Moves by State & Philanthropic Arts Funders to Respond to Covid-19 Crisis

MCA Supports Moves by State & Philanthropic Funders to Respond to Covid-19 Crisis With Flexibility, General Operating Support

Across the country, philanthropy is responding to the unprecedented upheaval in the arts and nonprofits by signing a “Call to Action: Philanthropy’s Commitment During COVID-19” which pledges that range from eliminating restrictions on current grants, making new grants into general operating support, lengthening deadlines and other actions to help nonprofits survive to the other side of the pandemic. Thank you to the Minnesota foundations have signed the pledge, including the McKnight FoundationNorthwest Area Foundation and the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation.

In this spirit, MCA has asked the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councilsto respond in the same way, and in fact many of them already are. Here is the letter we delivered yesterday to leaders of the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils to support them in this move:

March 20, 2020

Dear Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Council Leaders:

Minnesotans have always pulled together when we need each other. We are a strong people who know how to work together, whether it’s a blizzard or hard times like these, and the arts, which bring communities together across the state, are certainly part of the glue that have kept Minnesota such a special place for so long. 

Minnesota Citizens for the Arts (MCA) believes that as the COVID-19 crisis deepens, the effects on the arts community will be severe. Gathering people together at performances and events is the lifeblood of the arts community. With all of the theaters, museums and other venues closed, events canceled, and people losing their jobs, the economic impact on Minnesota and the arts will be huge. The impact is immediate and devastating. In fact, in just the first four days, Minnesota’s arts organizations have reported a loss of $1 million and the impact will grow exponentially over what appears to be many months. We are going to lose many arts organizations all together, some of them permanently.

MCA is calling on you, the leaders of the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils, to ask that you take similar actions to the other Minnesota arts supporting foundations who are taking the following steps:

  • Removing restrictions to move grants to general operating support so that organizations can keep their lights on through the crisis in any way they need to,
  • Giving maximum flexibility to grantees in use of money,
  • Getting dollars out the field as quickly as possible, and
  • Lengthening grant periods and final report deadlines. 

Legacy Amendment language gives the MSAB/RAC system flexibility in grant making. There is no reason that you could not convert restrictive grant language to more flexible grant language that turns restrictive grants into general operating support grants. Every dollar that gives grantees more flexibility will help more organizations survive this crisis and continue serving Minnesotans into the future when the crisis is over.

Thank you for your consideration of our request on behalf of our Board and the great Minnesota arts community who we all serve,

Mary Ann Aufderheide      Sheila Smith                          Larry Redmond
MCA Board Chair             MCA Executive Director        MCA Lobbyist            

Remember to take the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Council Survey:

SURVEY: COVID-19’s impact on the creative community and support needed
Minnesota Citizens for the Arts is working furiously to support the arts and creative community as the COVID-19 crisis grows. We know that the community is experiencing unprecedented levels of upheaval and we are working in coalition with all of the statewide arts supporting organizations on a coordinated response. This survey is part of that coordination to get a handle on how the field would like the statewide arts supporting organizations to help. The good news is that we delivered 2000 letters of support for the arts during Virtual Arts Advocacy Day last Thursday. Way to go, Team! Watch for Arts Alerts this week as we announce, with many other partners, a number of efforts to support the field, but this is the first. Please give your input!


The Minnesota State Arts Board and Minnesota’s regional arts councils know that people and organizations in our state’s arts and creative sector are being tested and challenged as never before. The physical, emotional and financial toll that COVID-19 is taking is beyond our ability to measure, at this point.
To help us get a handle on what’s happening and guide our immediate and longer-term responses to COVID-19, we need your input. Please take FIVE MINUTES to complete a very brief and simple survey. We will begin reviewing the information on March 25, so please complete the survey by then. However, we know the situation is evolving every day, so we’ll keep the survey live and will continue to review new responses as we receive them. Please forward this message to anyone else who might want to provide input.
We will be sharing this information with other arts funders, with Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, and others who can use it in their own efforts. We are all in this together and I know we all want to do whatever we can to support one another.
Take care
Sue Gens
Executive Director
Minnesota State Arts Board