Recently, the Will Rogers Memorial Foundation learned it will share in $3 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to the arts and cultural sector by Gov. Kevin Stitt. Administered as Oklahoma Arts and Cultural Industry Relief Grants by the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC), funding will help sustain organizations whose arts programs are vital to economic development, quality of life, and education in Oklahoma.
“We are extremely excited about this grant as it will help us upgrade the Museum’s beautiful theatre to add a distance learning component,” said Bill Biard, Will Rogers Memorial Foundation president. “This is exactly why the Foundation is here, to help support the Memorial Museum.”
Museum Executive Director Tad Jones said the $20,000 grant will provide upgrades in the newly renovated Will Rogers Theatre. “We will be adding two cameras and we will be able to video programs in the Theatre and share them live over social media or record them for posterity. This upgrade will be great for any business or organization that wants to share a presentation online, as we will be able to control video output and have a professional experience for participants. This will also help us share our Will Rogers Motion Picture Festival with people from around the world,” said Jones.
Oklahoma’s creative sector, which relies heavily on in-person fundraising and event-generated earned income has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Varying grant amounts were approved by the Governor-appointed Oklahoma Arts Council board. Funding was prioritized for organizations with arts-based missions that serve geographically isolated areas, under-resourced communities, culturally diverse populations and underrepresented groups.
“OAC staff has worked to ensure funding could save jobs and stabilize. As many nonprofits and other essential organizations across the state arts and cultural industry as possible,” said OAC Executive Director Amber Sharples.
Pandemic-related losses have been estimated at 19,000 jobs and $606 million in sales in Oklahoma’s creative sector. While arts have been at the forefront of innovating and adopting technology efforts to continue providing Oklahomans with arts education and access to arts during the pandemic, the nature of arts bringing people together forced many organizations to be among the first to close their doors and dictates they be among the last to reopen. The Will Rogers Memorial Museum closed March 15, 2020, and reopened on June 1, with many events cancelled and travel, especially school groups and tour buses, curtailed.