Community Accelerator Grants Support 671 Washington Orgs

Jun 01 2023

The 2023 Community Accelerator Grant Program was a $10 million dollar pilot program funded by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and administered by ArtsFund.

This program was an effort to prioritize community needs, showcase trust in organizations to make decisions based on their lived experiences, and to ensure the sustainability of critical arts organizations and promote the value and power of arts and culture to help communities thrive.

The program centers on unrestricted funding for arts and culture non-profits serving communities across the state, and prioritizes communities with less access to mainstream funding, including organizations who center BIPOC, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and rural communities. As the arts sector and industry continues to adapt, this sort of unrestricted funding is intended to support the long-term adaptation and prompt innovation for organizations in the years ahead. It is an investment in the quality of life for Washingtonians and, as studies have shown, communities with a strong arts and culture sector see more civic engagement, better health outcomes, higher quality schooling, and economic revitalization.

The 2023 CAG awards went to 671 arts and culture organizations across Washington state, representing nearly every county, and supporting a range of organizations with what they identified as their most pressing needs including salaries, programming, and rent and facilities costs. Here is a snapshot of some of the awardees and how they used their funds:

Seattle Musicians Access to Healthcare (SMASH)

SMASH started its work in 2017 as a volunteer-led initiative working to address the impact of inflation and cost-of-living increases on Seattle-area musicians. By making medical, dental, and mental healthcare more accessible and affordable, the organization allows the artists it serves to focus their energy on growing their craft and giving back to the community. Their Community Accelerator Grant award has helped cover the costs of onboarding and training their newest hire, who is SMASH’s first employee dedicated entirely to member support.

“We’re a young organization and we don’t have a wide pool of regular grantors yet. The Community Accelerator Grant gave us the stability to build our programs, increase our impact, and tell a better story to other funders, and I believe that’s really going to pay dividends this year.”

Denise Burnside, Executive Director, SMASH

Photo courtesy SMASH
Photo courtesy Tyler West

The Rude Mechanicals

The Rude Mechanicals is a live theatre company serving the Columbia and Walla Walla valleys in Southeastern WA. They deliver high-quality Shakespeare-inspired theatre and educate the public on the value and impact of live theater. They credit the Community Accelerator Grant with kickstarting the company’s transition from survival mode to thinking ahead and planning for the future. Grant funding allowed the board to hire two part-time staff members to oversee day-to-day operations, rebuild relationships, and do some dreaming about how The Rude Mechanicals could best serve the community. In recognition of the large Spanish-speaking population in their region, where approximately 37% of residents are Latinx, they’re working towards a fully bilingual website and many other Spanish-language resources. They’re making it easier to get to their performance spaces by sharing bus routes and parking information, and providing scripts so that Hard of Hearing patrons can follow along with the show.

Spectrum Center Spokane

Spectrum Center Spokane serves the Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho queer community by providing intersectional gathering opportunities for people of all ages to come together, access resources, and forge new connections. Founded in 2018, Spectrum offers a wide range of programs, including leadership development, social services, gender-affirming healthcare, pop-up vaccine clinics, artmaking groups, Two-Spirit beading circles, and activist meetups, and continues to pilot new offerings based on community feedback. With Community Accelerator Grant funding, Spectrum contracted four professional artists – a photographer, a zine writer, a spoken word performer, and a painter – to each teach four sessions at The Hive (a non-traditional library space in Spokane centered around arts education) in May, to offer Adult Art Camp, showcasing their projects at a Queer Art Walk last June.

Photo courtesy Aodhan Brown
Photo courtesy Aodhan Brown

Click here for more case studies from the 2023 Communtiy Accelerator Grante awardees and information about the 2024 Community Accelerator Grant.