Sisters arts organizations got a significant financial shot in the arm from the Oregon Cultural Trust.

Coronavirus Relief Fund Cultural Support (CRFCS) grant awards totaling $25.7 million are being distributed to 621 organizations across Oregon. These funds, approved by the Emergency Board of the Oregon Legislature in July, were allocated to the Oregon Cultural Trust to support cultural organizations facing losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Wednesday Cate O’Hagan, co-chair of the Deschutes Cultural Coalition, a program in partnership with Oregon Cultural Trust, distributed relief fund checks for the arts in Sisters outside on the steps of Sisters Art Works.

Funding went to the Sisters Folk Festival ($194,998), Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show ($10,205), Sisters Rodeo Association ($32,798) and Silent Echo Theater Company ($4,630).

O’Hagan, known for serving over two decades as executive director for Arts Central in Bend, helped decide how to allocate the funds that recently flowed into the county to support the arts from a fund the state set aside from the federal CARES Act.

She told the arts organization representatives, “The Deschutes Cultural Coalition acts as citizen representation for the trust. Out of the relief package, $25 million of that went to venues like theaters and the High Desert Museum, real brick and mortar venues. The other $25 million was allocated around the state by county by a per capita formula. It’s a highly competitive process and it was a difficult grant to write in a short period of time. I tried to get the word out to the cultural arts organizations in the Sisters community because I live here. I wanted to make sure that we took advantage of this opportunity and am so glad that you qualified for this funding.”

Steven Remington, development director for Sisters Folk Festival (SFF), was at the presentation in support of the festival with Crista Munro, SFF’s executive director.

Remington told The Nugget, “It’s going to make the difference of being sustainable in 2021 as the pandemic plays out. There’s so much that we just can’t plan on yet. What’s really great is how the state and the cultural organizations all worked together to make this happen. I think that the big takeaway is not just that we have the sustenance to move forward, but the whole state recognized our value.”

Munro added, “Sisters Folk Festival’s 2020 operations were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the cancellation of our summer and winter concert series and the postponement of the 24th Annual Sisters Folk Festival. This emergency funding is a much-needed lifeline for SFF and other cultural organizations around the state. In our case, the money has allowed us to offer redesigned programming in 2020 and into 2021, including virtual classes and workshops; in-person, small cohort clubs and classes; outdoor summer creativity camps for kids; physically distanced live concerts at our new backyard venue; and livestream concerts and events.”

Brian Witt, a board member of the Sisters Rodeo Association, said that the funds the rodeo received would be used for covering expenses for 2020.

“We have a lot of fixed expenses that we have to cover like utilities and social media, everything that we had to pay for even without a rodeo this year,” he said. “It’s really helping us breach through this tough time.”

Marla Manning, founder of The Silent Echo Theater Company (SETC), accepted the check from O’Hagan.

Manning said, “Life has been trying for all of us in 2020 and we could all use a time and space where laughter and good entertainment is on hand. The SETC plans to expand our programs beyond our usual schedule to aid Sisters-area residents who enjoy cultural events in a safe environment. Our board of directors is actively engaged in finding new and innovative ways to present live theater, while following all county guidelines, whether it’s through appropriate social distancing in an indoor theater, or using outdoor spaces like tents or park settings, along with clear-mask use allowing for greater performer visibility.”

Dawn Boyd, executive director for Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show (SOQS), said that the organization will use the funds to help with operating costs.

“That may not sound very glamorous, but important to maintain the sustainability of SOQS while we plan ahead to 2021,” she said.