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Oklahoma Arts Council News

April 2020

Oklahoma Arts Council Shifts to Meet Needs During Pandemic

The well-being of Oklahomans across the state involved in the arts continues to be the focus of the Oklahoma Arts Council as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. As Oklahomans take measures to ensure safety and good health for themselves and their communities, our staff is working remotely to assess the impact of the crisis on artists and cultural organizations. We are shifting our efforts to meet your changing needs.

Already available on the Oklahoma Arts Emergency Resource Page of our website is a list of resources for individuals and organizations to use as they navigate the challenges of the pandemic. The list includes national and local resources covering a wide a range of issues. The page will soon be updated with an extensive list of new resources, so check it often.

Below are other ways we are shifting our focus:


Oklahoma Arts Council staff members are hosting virtual town hall meetings with grantees in most of our grant categories. Through the meetings, we are relaying important information about how grants are being affected. Grantee organizations are being notified through email about upcoming meetings. Organizations are urged to ensure that their grant contact is receiving our email notifications. Our grants department can be reached at


Like many arts and cultural organizations, Oklahoma Arts Council programs are being altered or postponed. Upcoming Cornerstone Conversations listening sessions in Lawton and Oklahoma City have been postponed. Considerations related to our Leadership Arts program are being made, and class members will be notified accordingly.


As the crisis continues, questions or concerns can be directed to Oklahoma Arts Council staff members. We continue to be available through our office phone numbers and email addresses. Please visit our staff page for contact information.

Self-Employed Artists, Gig Workers to Get Unemployment Benefits

Through the recently passed Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a new benefit is being offered that the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) says could be a, "substantial boon for artists and creative entrepreneurs." The act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which will provide up to 39 weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, and others who may not otherwise be eligible for state unemployment benefits.

Benefits will be available once federal guidelines are developed and fully implemented in Oklahoma's workforce agency. The Oklahoma Arts Council will pass along additional information when available. Individuals interested in applying are advised to begin gathering documentation about their recent work history, earnings, banking information, and other potentially related records.

Read a news article about unemployment benefits for self-employed and part-time workers through the CARES Act.

Nonprofits Urged to Take Advantage of Paycheck Protection Plan

Part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a loan program that small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and self-employed individuals can use to keep workers on their payroll. Oklahoma arts and cultural nonprofit organizations are highly encouraged to consider taking advantage of the program.

Funds used for payroll costs and interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities are eligible to be fully forgiven. Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.

Applications for the program began recently and will be accepted through June 30, 2020.

Read a Forbes article about the PPP program.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Those receiving assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program should aim to maximize both by using the disaster loan to pay for expenses that are not forgivable under the PPP.

Let AFTA Know How COVID-19 is Impacting the Arts

Americans for the Arts (AFTA) is leading a nationwide assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic on the nation's arts and cultural sector. Oklahomans involved in the arts are urged to respond to AFTA's brief five-minute survey.

Through the survey, AFTA aims to demonstrate how arts and cultural workers are overcoming challenges of the pandemic. AFTA also wants to learn how the outrbreak is affecting operations through canceled events, lost wages, and additional expenses.

Artists, local arts agencies, colleges, museums, foundations, film/video/media arts organizations, makerspaces, arts advocacy organizations, and a wide variety of other arts and cultural entities should complete the survey.

Feedback from the survey will affect future funding for the arts, including any additional federal stimulus measures.

Click here to take the survey.

RELATED: See AFTA's Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource and Response Page.

How Creative Professionals Can Access Government Help

A flowchart published by the Department for Professional Employees (DPE) can help creative industry workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic navigate the process of getting government assistance. The chart is a quick guide for those who have lost current or upcoming part-time or full-time work. It includes information for W-2 employees, 1099 or self-employed workers, and students/long-term unemployed workers. According to the DPE, for the first time, 1099 workers will be able to get unemployment insurance.

Click here to download the flowchart.

Founded in 1977, the Department for Professional Employees is a coalition of 24 national unions representing over four million people.

SBA Offers Low-Interest Disaster Loans

Among the resources available to Oklahoma arts and cultural nonprofits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are low interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration through the federal agency's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Up to $2 million in loans per organization is available to use toward fixed debts, accounts payable, and more. The interest rate for nonprofits is 2.75 percent.

Applications will be available through December 21, 2020. Organizations can apply online or call the customer service center at (800) 659-2955. Accessing the website during off hours is recommended due to high volume.

Click here to learn more about SBA disaster loans.

Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Offering Free SBA Loan Consultations

The Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits (OKCNP) has launched a free consultation program for organizations needing assistance applying for loans from the Small Business Administration. Three OKCNP staff members have been designated to assist with questions about financial planning, reporting, and other related issues. See this OKCNP post for details.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Those applying for assistance through the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) should aim to maximize both by using the disaster loans for items that are not forgivable under the PPP.

Oklahoma High School Students Can Enter Congressional Art Competition

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, high schools students across Oklahoma can submit artwork for the annual Congressional Art Competition. Since 1982, the program has allowed lawmakers to encourage and recognize the artistic talent of young constituents in their districts.

Winning artwork from each Congressional district is displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol, and winning artists and a guest may be flown to Washington, D.C., for a reception and awards presentation.

Deadlines are set by each individual House member and are available on their respective websites. View your member's website for additional rules and guidelines:

  • 1st District of Oklahoma - Congressman Kevin Hern (website). Deadline April 27.

  • 2nd District of Oklahoma - Congressman Markwayne Mullin (website). Deadline early May.

  • 3rd District of Oklahoma - Congressman Frank Lucas (website). Deadline April 16.

  • 4th District of Oklahoma - Congressman Tom Cole (website). Deadline April 24.

  • 5th District of Oklahoma - Congresswoman Kendra Horn (website). Deadline n/a.

Click here to find your Congressman.

View winning artwork from 2019.

Oklahomans for the Arts Postpones Arts and Culture Day

Oklahomans for the Arts (OFTA) has postponed its upcoming Oklahoma Arts & Culture Day 2020, originally scheduled for April 22 at the Oklahoma State Capitol. The postponement was announced by OFTA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organized by OFTA, Oklahoma Arts & Culture Day is an annual event convening individuals and organizations from the state's cultural sector for advocacy training and opportunities to visit with their elected officials at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Though registration for the 2020 event was free, purchase of lunches was being coordinated by OFTA. For those who purchased a lunch, updated information is available on the OFTA website.

According to OFTA, any decision to attempt to reschedule the event will be made with guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other government agencies.

OFTA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for public investments in arts, culture, and arts education in Oklahoma.

Piper Lloyd of Bethany Wins State Poetry Out Loud Competition

Bethany High School senior Piper Lloyd is the winner of the 2020 Oklahoma Poetry Out Loud Competition. Lloyd was one of more than 20 finalists from across the state who participated in the state finals in Edmond on March 5. In addition to schools in metro areas of the state, finalists represented rural communities such as Walters, Byng, Madill, and more. Thousands of students in Oklahoma participated in school competitions, with school winners advancing to the state finals.

The state competition is organized by Oklahoma A+ Schools in partnership with the Oklahoma Arts Council. The state competition is part of the national Poetry Out Loud competition. State finalists were scheduled to compete in the national finals in Washington, D.C. in late April, however the event has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Changes to NEA Challenge America Grant Deadline

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced the cancelation of the deadline to apply for grants through its Challenge America program. Through Challenge America, the NEA provides $10,000 in support of projects presented by small and mid-sized organizations. The cancelation was made so that the NEA can prepare to distribute the $75 million in funding it will receive as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). At least 40 percent of NEA funding from the CARES Act must be awarded to state and regional arts organizations.

Organizations that had planned to submit applications through the Challenge America program are now being instructed to submit applications for funding through the NEA's Grants for Arts Projects category. Applications are due July 9.

Updates on the distribution of the NEA's funding through the CARES Act will be provided as it becomes available.

Oklahoma Arts Funding Depends on Census

April 1 was the official launch date for the 2020 United States Census. The census effort continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The count is crucial to our state receiving its proper apportionment of federal funding from agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts. In fiscal year 2019 alone, the total federal arts funding impact in Oklahoma was $878,650.

Oklahoma arts and cultural organizations can play a vital role in the count by promoting the census using tools from the OK, Let's Count! Census 2020 website. As arts and cultural organizations increasingly expand their online presence during the pandemic, information from the website about the census can be shared with online audiences.

Important facts:

  • The 2020 Census is easy and confidential. It will include only nine questions.

  • It can be taken online, by phone, or by mailing back the paper form.

  • By law, information cannot be shared with anyone - not the FBI, IRS, ICE, or any other agency.

For every Oklahoman not counted, the state loses $1,675 in federal support. In 2010, Oklahoma had the second-lowest response rate.

Cayla Lewis is new Oklahoma Arts Council Community Arts Director

For Cayla Lewis, her new role as Oklahoma Arts Council Community Arts Director feels like the culmination of her passions and her professional journey. A Yukon native, Lewis has long been interested in the visual arts. Shortly after getting her driver's license, she started making frequent trips to Oklahoma City's Paseo Arts District, which she describes as, "a place unlike anything (she had) ever visited." She later discovered the city's blossoming Plaza District, where she quickly connected with the artists and art forms that were shaping the district's renewal.

Lewis would eventually become Executive Director of the Plaza District Association, having served a stint as the district's communications coordinator. In her director role, Lewis observed firsthand the impact made possible through the hard work and ingenuity of Oklahoma artists. From the experience, Lewis would realize a growing passion for supporting and promoting the artist community. It is a passion she says she will now harness in her Community Arts Director role, working closely with cultural districts statewide to help them leverage their local cultural assets for economic development.

Lewis' first connection to the Oklahoma Arts Council came through her attendance at the Oklahoma Arts Conference, an event she has continued to attend. In 2014, she applied and was accepted into the agency's Leadership Arts program. Her engagement with the Oklahoma Arts Council helped her connect with arts leaders across the state.

Lewis started with the Oklahoma Arts Council in January. She had little time to settle in before the COVID-19 virus became a global crisis. In the midst of the crisis, Lewis sees the arts and her position in it as serving to invoke community and bring togetherness.

"Especially now, it is important to remember how healing art can be and how much good it does for our emotional well-being," Lewis said.

Lewis holds an undergraduate degree in fine arts with an emphasis in printmaking. She holds a master's degree in museum studies.

Cayla Lewis' travel recommendations:

At a time when most people are not traveling because of the pandemic, Lewis offers thoughts on her favorite places to visit in Oklahoma:

It may come as no surprise, but I am a big fan of the Main Street feel. I love going to walkable neighborhoods and districts with all of their culture and quirkiness. I am a big fan of the murals and public art in Enid, Miami (Okla), and the Plaza District. I enjoy finding unexpected and surprise public art displays while wandering through walkable areas. The Wichita Mountains are among my favorite places to explore. I enjoy wandering through Charon's Gardens, searching for the Pear and Apple boulder. I am also a big fan of our state parks—I have fond memories of traveling with my grandparents in their RV to Lake Texoma, Grand Lake, and Red Rock Canyon. One can learn so much about themselves and the world around them by getting out of their normal everyday space.

Cayla Lewis can be reached at (405) 521-2028 and