In response to the ongoing pandemic, the Winona Fine Arts Commission (FAC) will award grants next month to local individuals and organizations working in a creative field. 

The FAC will award $500 grants. The grants are meant to support artists during the continuing pandemic, Winona Arts and Culture Coordinator Lee Gundersheimer and Winona City Council Member Eileen Moeller said. Moeller applied on behalf of her workplace, Frozen River Film Festival. 

“There are still some struggles, in terms of getting work or having work cancelled … We want to provide whatever help we can so people can continue to be creative in Winona,” Gundersheimer said. 

“There’s definitely still a need for assistance,” Moeller said. 

The grants could help an individual artist start a project or an arts organization hire an additional contractor and make programming accessible,Moeller said. “Every bit of funding helps,” she said. 

The FAC will rate the applications and decide how many grants to award, Gundersheimer said.The commission has about $3,000 in their budget from which to award grants, he continued. The FAC has received a good number of applications, he added, and the round of judging will be fairly competitive. “There’s some tried and true organizations, and there’s some individuals, so it’s a nice mixture,” he said. 

Gundersheimer and Moeller agreed that funding the arts is important for the community. Doing so helps make the area an enjoyable place to live, they said. As a result of the arts’ place in the community, Gundersheimer said, children have ways to learn how to play an instrument, paint and write, for instance. “It’s an economic driver, it’s a cultural driver and it enhances the quality of life of all of us,” Gundersheimer said. Moeller also said the arts are a key piece of the local economy. “We have a really vibrant arts and culture scene. That’s one of the things that attracts tourists,” she said. 

The FAC has awarded grants at other times in the recent past. In 2020, the commission awarded 11 grants to individuals and organizations to support their creative work during the pandemic, and in 2019-2020, the FAC awarded four grants to individuals to help them create art, from a film score to a free community concert. 

Prior to those recent years, the FAC awarded small grants for eight years out of $44,000 raised by local artists selling blue heron statues in 2007.