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COVID & the Arts: Major Funders Make Changes


People, organizations, and businesses in the Quad Cities are joining forces to raise money for disaster relief.

In this abnormal world, the Regional Development Authority in the Quad-Cities is also changing plans. Last month, it canceled its spring grant cycle and instead is supporting a disaster relief fund and local nonprofits that serve the most vulnerable. 

Matt Mendenhall, CEO of the RDA, says for the spring grant cycle, applications are normally due at the end of March, the board would approve grants in mid-May, and checks are  sent out by early June.

"When we looked at what was going on, we realized that was going to be too far in terms of getting the money out to people, so we decided to cancel the spring grants so we could respond more quickly to what the need was."

And besides, there were only three completed applications when they decided to cancel, compared to a typical spring when the RDA would get 80-100 applications. It would fund about half of those, totaling $1.2 million.

Mendenhall says the RDA also has less to give out since its own funding source - Davenport's Rhythm City Casino - has been closed since March 17th. It donated $100,000 to the Quad Cities Disaster Recovery Fund, after the Community Foundation asked for a matching grant.

"That was something we wanted to do to set the pace, and say to other funders, this is an important thing to do in a unified way."

On March 27, the RDA granted $215,000 for 10 local agencies that help vulnerable people in the community, based on requests to the Community Foundation. 

"We won't have any new dollars to grant until the casino re-opens. When we look at the arts organizations, it's really traumatic because those are such important organizations."

The Scott County Regional Authority, which is funded by the Isle Casino in Bettendorf has postponed its grant cycle, also focusing on pandemic relief, with applications due May 1st.

Formerly the arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus and Quad-City Times, Jonathan Turner now writes freelance for WVIK and QuadCities.com. He has experience writing for daily newspapers for 32 years and has expertise across a wide range of subject areas, including government, politics, education, the arts, economic development, historic preservation, business, and tourism. He loves writing about music and the arts, as well as a multitude of other topics including features on interesting people, places, and organizations. He has a passion for accompanying musicals, singers, choirs, and instrumentalists. He even wrote his own musical based on The Book of Job, which premiered at Playcrafters in 2010. He wrote a 175-page history book about downtown Davenport, which was published by The History Press in 2016. Turner was honored in 2009 to be among 24 arts journalists nationwide to take part in a 10-day fellowship offered by the National Endowment for the Arts in New York City on classical music and opera, based at Columbia University’s journalism school.
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