Lisa’s List : Gwinnett’s ARTS and the Gwinnett Creativity Fund

One of the bright lights of the extraordinarily dim 2020 was the creation and launch of Gwinnett County’s first-ever arts and cultural grant fund, the Gwinnett Creativity Fund (GCF). Created with support from the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, Explore Gwinnett Tourism + Film developed, administers and promotes this innovative program. The GCF offers grant support, operations and project grants to qualified, Gwinnett-based arts and cultural 501C3 + C6 organizations.

Now entering its fourth year, the GCF mission strives to develop Gwinnett’s art experiences and organizations, create a more cultural, inclusive destination and support and engage underserved audiences or organizations, including many small volunteer-led organizations that have been historically left out of the grant opportunity zone.

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.

In 2020, Gwinnett County supported a wide range of small and large groups, such as the African Film + Fashion Festival, Atlanta Harmony Celebration, Stone Mountain Chorus, Live Arts Theater, Aurora Theatre and Gwinnett Ballet Theatre.

One of the highlights of the past two years has been finding new ways to support special needs or less abled groups with art-based initiatives. These include Spectrum Autism Group’s “Women on the Spectrum” monthly art workshop, a production of Lion King Jr. featuring young adults with special needs, as well as a summer arts enrichment camp for Gwinnett families with autistic children.

The GCF loves investing in new, different and innovative opportunities. A few “out of the box” favorites include Suwanee Performing Arts’ multi-day, outdoor Shakespeare production at Gwinnett’s bluegrass mecca, Everett’s Music Barn and Fezziwig Foundation’s nascent production of “CLUE” at Aurora Theatre.

If you’ve spent time in any of Gwinnett’s welcoming town centers, GCF’s influence is apparent in all of them, from the creation of Suwanee’s stunning Buford Highway Mural to Sugar Hill’s “A Bowl of Sweet Sounds”, a 3-D musical motif public art piece. Local artist Jonesy’s new mural, which fronts the outdoor Sculpture Garden, welcomes art lovers to the Hudgens Art Center. The Suwanee Public Arts Commission, a recent 2022 recipient, will unveil their “Ultimate Participation Trophy” public art installation, created by local artist Phil Proctor using residents’ donated trophies, medals and awards at the 2023 Suwanee Arts Festival.

While the GCF has supported and funded immediate project and operational needs, it can also sustain long-term initiatives, including Artworks Gwinnett’s plans to develop a countywide Strategic Arts Master Plan. Created in collaboration with Gwinnett County, Artworks will develop a creative economy master plan to help build vision, goals, priorities and strategic directions for the arts.

Small, international and ethnic arts organizations are all acceptable grant recipients. The Georgia Latin Film Alliance and Festival, Japan Fest, and two culturally themed shows, including Aurora Theatre’s recent sell-out run of Kim’s Convenience, were all recently awarded grants.

The first three years of the Creativity Fund were an ongoing learning process as changes and amends were made to guidelines in hopes of accommodating more arts organizations. With the foundation of GCF now solidified, the fund will announce its first Operations Grant recipients in mid-April of 2023, with the Project Grant application to immediately follow.

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