September 9, 2020

Media Contact:
Scott Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Today, County Executive Calvin Ball announced nearly $750,000 in grants for Howard County live venues and arts community that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The HoCo RISE Live Theatre and Artist Relief Funds, funded through the CARES Act, will support Howard County establishments including Merriweather Post Pavilion, Toby’s Dinner Theatre, and the Drama Learning Center in addition to individual artists and non-profit organizations. Photos of the event can be found here.


“The Howard County arts community is one of the most creative, prolific and diverse throughout our region and nation. We have a deep history and culture of supporting the arts in our community,” said Ball. “While COVID-19 has disrupted so many facets of our daily lives – it has hit our arts and creative community especially hard. A season of empty seats, hollow halls, and quiet studios has caused lasting economic damage. We want these grants to provide a bridge of support, to get this community through this moment, and come back stronger than before.” 

The Live Theatre Fund will help stabilize and support the Howard County arts community that have lost income from performances, workshops, classes, touring, and more. Venues that pay admissions and amusement tax and are not open to the public have severely impacted. This fund includes more than $530,000 for Merriweather Post Pavilion, $75,000 for Toby’s Dinner Theatre, and $36,000 for the Drama Learning Center and Red Branch Theatre.    
Additionally, Ball allocated $100,000 to the Artist Relief Fund, to support individual artists and non-profit arts organizations that have been adversely affected by the pandemic. $50,000 of the fund will be distributed to individual artists, up to $1,000 per person. Many artists who rely partially or fully on income from gigs, contracts, and freelance lost work during the initial shut-down and from the continued mitigation measures in place. The other $50,000 will be used to support non-profit arts organizations that are current recipients of the Arts Council Community Arts Development Grant program. The Howard County Arts Council will administer this grant application and review process.   

“The arts have the power to unite, heal, and soothe. During this crisis, people all over the world are increasingly turning to the arts to connect with one another and add perspective to their lives,” said Coleen West, Executive Director of the Howard County Arts Council. “Like other sectors, the pandemic is having a staggering effect on the arts, which is historically one of the hardest sectors hit and the last to recover. Despite the loss of contracts and gig work, unemployment insurance hurdles, and the pandemic, local artists remain optimistic and continue to respond and create, but they need support. The Arts Council is thrilled that County Executive Calvin Ball has designated CARES Act funding to the arts through the HoCo RISE initiative. It comes at a critical time and will help the arts sector rise above this pandemic.”  
“The arts are such an important part of our community, it is critical that we lend assistance to support this part of our economy that contributes to our culture and quality of life in Howard County,” said Larry Twele, President and CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.  
“We’re so grateful to County Executive Ball for his support,” said Jean Parker, General Manager of Merriweather Post Pavilion. “We have been completely shut down with no revenue for 2020, but our bills keep coming. We appreciate this assistance from Howard County, we have reached out to the State and now look to the federal government to pass the Save Our Stages Act, since we have no insight into when we can reopen. All independent venues in Maryland, which bring so much economic activity to the state, need that so they can reopen fully when it’s safe.”

“Merriweather has been knocked down before, and each time, our community has rallied to pick it back up,” said Ian Kennedy, Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. “Dr. Ball has always been one of those helping hands, a true champion for both Merriweather and the arts throughout his public service. Amidst these extraordinary and uncertain times, we can confidently say ‘the show will go on again’ thanks to the unwavering support of Dr. Ball and his administration.” 
"How truly wonderful today was! Because of Howard County advocating for the arts, and this extremely generous grant, we can continue working towards our future reopening,” said Toby Orenstein, Artistic Director for Toby's Dinner Theatre. “We hope the state and federal government will be as gracious as Howard County is in showing its support for arts and culture."
“Misako Ballet Company remains committed to safely bringing dance to our Howard County community,” Misako Aoki, Artistic Director and Founder, Misako Ballet. “The new HoCo RISE COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant for Organizations would provide us with the financial means to purchase new video equipment, technology, and videography for our virtual and outdoor performances this year. Thank you very much.”  

“I am extremely grateful for the artist relief grant,” said Ernest Douglas, a Howard County musician and grant recipient. “It came at a time when my whole world was suddenly put on hold right as my wife was about to give birth to our daughter. The money we received helped keep food on or table, and for that, I am forever grateful. This next round of the HoCo RISE artist relief grant would help us beyond words. I have been struggling to find new employment. I have spent years building my performance reputation as well as working in restaurants, both of which have been especially affected by the pandemic.”  
“Under normal circumstances the Columbia Festival of the Arts depends on generous supporter contributions and grants from philanthropic organizations such as Howard County Arts Council,” said Robert Neal Marshall, Managing Director, Columbia Festival of the Arts. “During these incredibly challenging times, it would be a deeply appreciated lifeline to receive a new HoCo RISE Covid-19 Relief Grant, which would allow us to continue providing vital services and much needed support to our community.”  

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