It’s difficult to believe that the end of the chaotic, unpredictable 2021 is right around the corner. While this year may not have been the shining light at the end of the tunnel known as COVID, there were bright lights that permeated through our arts, tourism and entertainment industry throughout the year.
One of our bright lights, the Gwinnett Creativity Fund (GCF), germinated in March 2020, at the absolute height of the pandemic. Created with support from Gwinnett County, the Gwinnett Creativity Fund is Gwinnett’s first-ever county-wide arts and cultural grants program. Explore Gwinnett manages, administers and promotes this program, which offers unrestricted grant support, both operations and project grants, to qualified, Gwinnett-based arts and cultural 501C3 organizations.
The GCF mission strives to help Gwinnett become a more cultural, inclusive destination and allows nonprofit arts & cultural organizations to grow. Our project grant will enable organizations to provide new programmatic and educational opportunities, support and engage underserved audiences – all while enhancing Gwinnett’s cultural landscape.
The Creativity Fund has two cycles, one to support operational needs, and one created specifically for new and evolving arts and culture projects or initiatives. Our first cycle, in mid-2020, was truly a success in terms of supporting arts groups as they struggled to stay open, pay rent, or purchase new equipment.
Moving into late fall 2020, the resiliency of our arts groups amazed us. Small or large, they remained committed to creating content, performances and live music. Public art installations were planned, concerts performed and exhibits created. Our first round of operations grants supported a wide range of organizations, from the smallest (African Film + Fashion Festival, Atlanta Harmony Celebration, Stone Mountain Chorus and Live Arts theater) to Gwinnett’s well-known arts leaders (Aurora Theatre, Gwinnett Ballet Theatre).
Moving into 2021, we are delighted to have already awarded almost $160,000 in grants. Our second 2021 project grant cycle was recently completed, with projects including the Gwinnett County Public Library’s county-wide juried photography exhibition, Suwanee Performing Arts multi-day, outdoor Shakespeare production at Gwinnett’s bluegrass mecca, Everett’s Music Barn, or Spectrum Autism Group’s “Women on the Spectrum” monthly art workshop.
As you visit our downtowns, the GCF influence can be seen in the creation of Suwanee’s stunning Buford Highway Mural, located at the intersection of Town Center Park. In Sugar Hill, “A Bowl of Sweet Sounds,” a 3-D musical motif public art piece, welcomes you to the shops and restaurants in the charming city. Concert and meeting attendees are welcomed to the Gas South District with a music-oriented Button Art public artwork. Our 2021 grant cycle also funded the Hudgens Center for the Arts landmark Garden mural (coming soon).
While the Creativity Fund has supported and funded immediate needs, we are also pleased to support more long-term initiatives, including Artworks Gwinnett’s plans to develop a county-wide Strategic Arts Master Plan. Created in collaboration with Gwinnett County, Artworks will develop a creative economy master plan to help develop vision, goals, priorities and strategic directions for the arts.
We are already looking forward to 2022 and are working hard on tweaking and evolving our grants process to ensure greater awareness, stronger outreach and ensuring we limit barriers to participation from smaller or underserved organizations.