Friday, August 14, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 24

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on July 16th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 20 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 20

Santa Barbara County-based artists encouraged to apply to the inaugural Awards for Responsive Works


If  you’ve been working on any art projects since the early days of quarantine back in March, you just might be eligible for a new countywide stipend. 

The Santa Barbara County Arts Commission is currently accepting submissions for consideration into its newly launched artist awards program. The deadline to enter is Aug. 3, and up to 20 artists will be chosen to receive a stipend of $500.

Apply now
Visit for more info on how to apply to the 2020 Awards for Responsive Works. Submissions are due by Aug. 3, and the award winners will be announced sometime in September.

While the Santa Barbara Bowl’s 2020 concert season was inevitably put on hold earlier this year, proceeds from the 2019 season were collected into an arts subsidy fund, which will pay for the 2020 Awards for Responsive Works program.

Dennis Smitherman, chair of the Arts Commission, said the program—titled the 2020 Awards for Responsive Works—was created to help support artists who have suffered financial losses due to COVID-19 closures and cancellations.

“Gig artists have been some of the most impacted in terms of loss in revenue,” Smitherman told the Sun. “This specific grant was developed as an offshoot of the previous grant cycle, which provided funding to smaller nonprofit arts organizations to help them through this time when most facilities are closed due to COVID-19 and the restrictions they are under.”

Tangible support of Smitherman’s claim can be found in a recent report from the state of California, which indicated that 85 percent of working artists within the state have experienced work cancellations over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

The former grant cycle benefited organizations specifically, and this awards program is open to individual artists and cultural practitioners of various disciplines, from culinary to literary arts, as long as they reside in Santa Barbara County. Applicants must also be at least 18 years old to enter.

“We hope that these stipends will allow artists to continue to help us create the new ‘normal,’” said Smitherman, who explained his stance on art as essential to society, especially following or during a crisis.

“Artists tend to be one of the first groups to create new ways to reimagine and rebuild the culture and environments after a disaster, relying on each other and viewing the world from a different perspective,” Smitherman said.

The Santa Barbara County Arts Commission has helped host various local arts events and bring traveling exhibits to the Central Coast over the years. The new stipend program was created to support working artists who may have faced severe financial hardship due to COVID-19 cancellations.

Also similar to the pandemic relief program, the new stipends are possible through funding from the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation. While the venue’s 2020 concert season was inevitably put on hold earlier this year, proceeds from the 2019 season were collected into an arts subsidy fund, which will in turn fund the stipend program. 

The subsidy fund is part of a lease agreement between the Santa Barbara Bowl and the county, which designates $.50 per ticket sold to benefit arts-related grants.

“Staff and commissioners worked hard to develop the proper protocol and procedures for granting this new avenue of funding,” Smitherman said.

The Arts Commission will evaluate submissions based on artistic merit, uniqueness of perspective, relevance to the current context of the pandemic, and other factors, Smitherman explained.

“This is not an easy process; as with the previous grant cycle, you have to take a lot into account to determine those most eligible,” said Smitherman, who added that representatives from sponsoring agencies will also assist in jurying the submissions.

Another requirement for applicants to the awards program is that their respective art must have been completed after March 13, as the program is intended to help artists who have continued creating art during quarantine, regardless of being paid for their labor or not. 

Artists who have not been severely financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis are encouraged to pass on the stipend opportunity, a statement on the program’s website reads, in order to support “the members of our creative economy who are most in need, as many cultural practitioners are facing tremendous financial hardship right now.” 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood wants to know what artists have been up to during quarantine. Reach him at

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