THE Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture was recently awarded $293,400 by the National Endowment for the Arts and $171,000 through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.

Of the $293,400 awarded through the annual partnership between the Commonwealth and the National Endowment for the Arts, $237,300 will be allocated for the implementation of the Arts Council’s plans; $10,000 for art education; and $46,100 for underserved communities.

“This is to help assist our artists. This is for programs for the community. It’s open to artists as well as organizations who are doing art programs in the community that need financial assistance. They can come in and apply for this grant,” said Parker Y. Yobei, Arts Council executive director.

Applicants must be a registered artist or non-profit organization in the CNMI. 

“It’s just to make sure that the applicant is a real artist and not a business owner, for example,” he said.

They may also be a registered collaborative agency that would like to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Arts Council to avail of this grant in the CNMI.

Yobei noted that the grant was initially set to expire this month, but was extended to April 2022 due to the still raging Covid-19 pandemic.

The next NEA funding has already been approved and will be for the 2021 to 2022 fiscal year.

“It’s already approved. I’m just doing the final touches. Every three years, [our] office has to turn in a state plan for the arts. This is how we get this grant. This year is due, and we’re just about done, but this grant is already pre-approved for $305,400. This is also open to all of the artists, organizations, and partners,” Yobei said.

Once applications are received, it will first be checked for completion, including ensuring that all required documentation is submitted.

After the applications and their required documentations are submitted and deemed complete, they will then be turned over to Yobei who will determine whether or not to approve the funding requests on each of the submitted applications.

Yobei said he will discuss these applications with CNMI Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero for approval, before reaching out to the CNMI Department of Finance for funds.

The executive director said applicants should expect to receive a response on the status of their application about a month or less after it has been submitted with all required documentation.

Yobei highly recommends that applicants submit completed applications and all required documentation at least two to three months prior to their anticipated project date.

Completed applications along with their required documentations will be processed in the order that they are received.

Once the funding for this fiscal year has been exhausted, all remaining applications that are approved will be funded through the next fiscal year's funding.

“We’re still trying to get back to normal. I know we’re not all there yet, but at least we can start doing some small group projects, like bringing back face-to-face after-school programs and just seeing more art in the community,” Yobei said.

For more information, to download an application or to register as an artist, non-profit, organization, or collaborative agency, visit www.cnmiartscouncil.org, email Arts Council Executive Director Yobei at parkeryobei@gmail.com, and/or call the Arts Council at 322-9982/3.

ARPA funds

The Arts Council was also recently awarded $171,000 through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, or ARPA, which is designated to facilitate the U.S. recovery from the devastating economic and health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This funding, Yobei emphasized, is strictly for artists, and will be open to applications beginning this November.

The Arts Council has partnered with Western States Arts Foundation, a regional non-profit arts service organization dedicated to strengthening the financial, organizational, and policy infrastructure of the arts in the West.

Through this partnership, applications will be reviewed on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Once these funds have been exhausted, there will be no additional funding, Yobei noted.

Applicants must be registered artists in the CNMI.

“The old-timers who have been with us for years and years — some of them have not been registered so come and register,” Arts Council folk arts coordinator Gloriana Teuira said. “Come and check out the grants. Apply.”

To artists who may be struggling amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Yobei said, “Be proud of your culture and respect others.... Don’t give up on creating your craft or performing your art. We’re here for you. We don’t know it all, but let’s at least open up a line of communication so we can try to come and see how we can help you.”

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