Staff Report

In recognition of the nonprofit arts and culture industry’s essential contribution to Santa Barbara County’s economy and community identity, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, Santa Barbara Foundation, and Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation are collaborating on a new COVID-19 Relief Grant Program for arts and culture nonprofits. More than $75,000 will be disbursed in two cycles to support county arts and culture nonprofits impacted by COVID-19. 

The application is available at Submissions are due by May 24. The County Office of Arts and Culture will host an online grant workshop for interested applicants at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 13.

Funding for the COVID-19 Relief Program is provided through the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation lease agreement where 50 cents from every ticket sold goes into a fund for arts and culture grants. 

Additionally, the Santa Barbara Foundation contributed $25,000 to help increase the scope and impact of the program, which is intended to help arts and culture organizations with general operating expenses, including staff and facilities support. The grant is stewarded by the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission and administered by the County Office of Arts and Culture. 

“Arts and culture are the heart of our community,” said Jackie Carrera, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “This collaboration aims to provide relief and support to arts and cultural organizations as they navigate through this pandemic. We are thrilled to partner with the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission to offer this program.”

Support is designated for nonprofit arts and culture organizations working to produce, promote and preserve arts and culture in Santa Barbara County. Applicants must have an annual operating budget under $1 million. 

“We are so fortunate to live in a place with such incredible arts and culture spaces,” Arts Commission Chair Dennis Smitherman said. “Hopefully this grant can help keep their doors and businesses open.”

Santa Barbara County holds the largest relative number of arts and culture nonprofits per capita in California. In 2016, the county partnered with the City of Santa Barbara to commission Americans for the Arts and the Office of Arts and Culture to conduct an economic impact study. The 93 arts and culture nonprofit participants generated almost $200 million, supporting 5,857 full-time equivalent jobs and directly contributing $4.6 million in local government revenue.

“We hope this funding will help support organizations in a critical way so they can continue to provide their exceptional services to communities in need,” said Karen Kerns, Vice Chair of the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation. “The Santa Barbara Bowl believes in the power of the arts to transform lives. During difficult times, people turn to the arts as a way to heal and come together.”   

Additional contributions to this relief program have already been pledged by the Santa Maria Arts Council and private donors. The second cycle will also include a program intended to keep artists working during this time. To learn more about this relief effort and program, please visit