As part of the State’s Crisis Contingency and Safety Net Fund, Governor Doug Ducey allocated $2 million for arts and culture organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arizona Commission on the Arts will administer this funding via the AZ Organizational Relief Grant (AZ ORG) program.

The AZ ORG program is intended to provide emergency relief to Arizona arts and culture organizations experiencing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In alignment with the Arts Commission’s public agency mission, the following values and realities were prioritized and applied in the development of the AZ ORG program: racial equity, geographic parity, a commitment to creative workers, public benefit and access, COVID-era financial loss, constituent and community feedback, and efficiency in resource delivery.

Eligible organizations received direct communications containing comprehensive application instructions during the first week of September 2020.

AZ Org Grants are open to Arizona arts and culture organizations that:

Submitted a Full or Alternate Year Community Investment Grant (CIG) application to the Arizona Commission on the Arts for Fiscal Year 2021


Worked as partners or facilitators with the Arizona Commission on the Arts to deliver services or funding in Fiscal Year 2019 or Fiscal Year 2020

Incurred or will incur expenses during a period of time beginning March 1, 2020, and ending March 31, 2021.

Are still operating in some capacity and intend to continue operating in some capacity through March 31, 2021. (As opposed to having permanently closed or facing imminent permanent closure.)

Following consideration of program priorities and realities, the Arts Commission aimed to 1) appropriately scale applicant labor up against available funds, and 2) create a process wherein funds could be administered with relative speed. The result is a diverse cohort of eligible applicants, composed of approximately 300 organizations, small and large, working in myriad creative disciplines, and located in communities across Arizona. While this cohort advances many of the Arts Commission’s stated goals and values, we recognize it does not represent absolute and ideal outcomes on every front.

The following charts and graphs provide additional data relevant to the cohort of eligible applicants.

Location of Eligible Orgs 

Population Distribution: Geographic


Organization Distribution: Geographic

The Arts Commission will work with intermediary partners in Apache, Greenlee, La Paz, and Pinal counties to place grants with eligible organizations as part of a broader effort to ensure geographic parity, with an intention to see relief funds invested in every Arizona county, including rural and remote areas of the state.

Distribution of Eligible Orgs: Urban and Rural

Distribution of Eligible Orgs Indicating Their Mission/Work Centers Specific Communities

Distribution of Eligible Orgs/Funding by Budget Size


Distribution of Org by Budget Size

Distribution of Funding by Budget Size

Unrestricted operating support grants of $4,000-$11,000 will be awarded. An estimated 300 Arizona organizations are eligible to apply.

This is a non-competitive program: up to 100% of applications may be funded, provided applications are complete, meet eligibility requirements, and are in alignment with the AZ ORG program purpose.

Arizona’s arts and culture organizations are facing widespread, unprecedented uncertainty and income loss as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AZ ORG review process presupposes organizational value and need as fundamental conditions and will not rank applications according to the devastating effects of the crisis on individual organizations.

Applications will be reviewed for completeness, eligibility, and program alignment. The review will be conducted by Governor-appointed commissioners and agency staff. The commission body will confer approval on a list of AZ ORG program recipients in October 2020.

To keep applications as simple as possible, the AZ ORG application consists of limited data collection and 3 narrative questions. Comprehensive application guidelines have been sent to eligible organizations. Applications opened on Thursday, September 3, 2020.

As stated, the AZ ORG program presupposes organizational value and need as fundamental conditions. This program also acknowledges that the amount of funding available is unlikely to fully relieve any individual organization of the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a time when many of the Arts Commission’s standard funding programs have been placed on hiatus due to revenue instability and funding restrictions. Yet we strongly believe this program can provide some measure of relief to a diverse set of organizations providing valuable services to Arizona residents.

Related to eligibility, what is meant by “operating in some capacity?”  

Many arts and culture organizations remain closed and/or are not offering their typical programming due to COVID-19 public gathering restrictions and audience concerns. This is appropriate and understood within the program framework. By “operating in some capacity,” AZ ORG asks eligible organizations to affirm that they still exist as an organization, as opposed to having permanently closed, and that they intend to function as an organization for the duration of the funding period, ending March 31, 2021.   

How do I know if my organization is eligible?  

Eligible organizations received direct communications containing comprehensive application instructions during the first week of September 2020. An estimated 300 Arizona organizations are eligible to apply.  

Does this grant focus on projects or new work?  

Grants made from public funding sources require credible evidence of public benefit. However, the AZ ORG program takes a comprehensive view of organizations and does not focus on projects, or the production/generation of new work. Many organizations have scaled back programming to preserve capital for a future reopening, while others remain closed for an indefinite amount of time because their programs and services are under specific constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is appropriate and understood within the program framework. 

Why isn’t the Arts Commission giving larger and fewer grants with this relief funding?  

The Arts Commission is a public agency with a mission and mandate to support arts and culture in communities across the State of Arizona. Acknowledging that total available relief funding cannot close crisis-related financial gaps, we have chosen to ensure support reaches a diverse cohort of organizations in locations across our state.  

Why has eligibility been limited in this way? 

Two reasons: 1) we aim to appropriately scale the amount of labor required of applicants up against available funds, and 2) we aim to process and deliver funds with relative speed. Limiting eligibility in this way creates an eligible pool of approximately 300 organizations, small and large, working in myriad creative disciplines, located in communities across Arizona, and reflecting the Arts Commission’s central values relevant to racial equity and geographic parity.  

The Arts Commission understands that financial need is great, and that available funding is already under a significant amount of pressure. We have chosen not to increase this pressure with a competitive process, as we don’t want applicants spending their labor assembling requests with a low probability of receiving support. Further, we do not wish to lengthen the time required for administration and delivery of funding by overwhelming an application process when the very nature of “emergency relief” demands efficiency.  

Why isn’t the Arts Commission focusing this program exclusively on organizations with paid staff?  

Prior to the pandemic, Arizona was home to a diverse arts ecosystem, including (but not limited to) organizations small and large, working in myriad creative disciplines, providing a wealth of benefits in communities across Arizona. The Arts Commission believes that 1) the diversity of this ecosystem is a strength, 2) the diversity of this ecosystem is essential, and 3) that arts workers, audiences, funders, and supporters have a vested interest in ensuring that a diverse arts ecosystem exists on the other side of the pandemic. We also recognize that having “paid staff” is not an exclusive path for creative-worker compensation: data show that small and mid-sized organizations often spend a larger percentage of their budgets on creative-worker contracts and payments to local vendors.  

Why isn’t the Arts Commission just awarding Community Investment Grants (CIG) with its relief funding?  

Two reasons: 1) the Arts Commission’s current-year budget is significantly reduced from last year, and 2) relief funding is restricted to relief. Not unlike Arizona arts organizations, the Arts Commission is experiencing financial volatility during the COVID crisis, as the agency did not receive a standard allocation of state funding and its other state funding source is dependent on business filing fees. The result is that there is not enough funding available to mount an effective program using the CIG framework. Further, while funding from the state’s Crisis Contingency and Safety Net Fund is greatly appreciated and will be helpful to Arizona’s arts organizations, it is intended for the explicit purpose of relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic, not for funding existing programs. 

What kind of constituent and community feedback guided the development of this grant program?  

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arts Commission staff have been in active conversation with organization leaders, artists, educators, and community partners about the effects of the pandemic on their work, and have carefully reviewed the results of efforts to quantitatively gauge those effects via local and national survey instruments. Additionally, a significant percentage of eligible organizations have recently submitted applications to the Arts Commission, either for operating support or AZ CARES relief, providing contemporary status information and other relevant data. All of this information was considered by the Arts Commission in the development of this program. 

Other Questions

For questions about the program, contact Claudio Dicochea, Organizational Programs Manager, at [email protected]. Please be aware that staff are currently working remotely, primarily between the hours of 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday.