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Each year, the District’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities gives away millions of dollars in grants to local artists and nonprofit arts organizations. The city agency hasn’t been especially well-funded in recent years—with the exception of FY 2013, when the D.C. Council gifted it a one-time $6.8 million bonus, bringing the total grants budget to a healthy $12 million—but it still finds a way to support local projects that have a particularly hard time making money. Such as poetry. And performance art. And hand-dancing. Not exactly enterprises to bank one’s retirement on.
The arts commission recently announced the recipients of its latest batch of grants, which total $7.5 million. Sure enough, in addition to helping prop up big organizations like the Kennedy Center, the agency is continuing the thankless, necessary work of giving money to unglamorous projects.Then again, that’s kind of the point—these grants don’t reward sexiness (though, one supposes the D.C. Tango Festival is pretty sexy). So look at it this way: Hand-dancing ain’t going to preserve itself.
Some key stats on the District’s FY 2014 arts grants (see the whole list of grantees here):
$450,000 for East of the River projects
$123,580 for jazz
including $10,000 for the D.C. Jazz Jam and $25,000 for the D.C. Jazz Festival’s 2014 East River JazzFest
$100,180 for poetry
including $37,000 for Split This Rock’s East of the River and youth programs
$55,300 for textile-related things
including $30,000 on a feminist quilt exhibit (“Workt by Hand”) at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and $13,000 on a sewing program at Southeast Tennis and Learning Center
$46,580 for film festivals
including $21,000 for the 2014 Environmental Film Festival
$30,000 for Capital Fringe
$17,800 for the D.C. Tango Festival
$17,000 for two local documentaries
$7,210 for the National Hand Dance Association
Graphic by Carey Jordan