Nonprofit opens grant applications for local art and culture projects

Latin Ballet of Virginia was one of the grant recipients for CultureWorks. Photo courtesy of Ana Ines King

Emily Richardson, Contributing Writer

Richmond-based CultureWorks annually offers art and culture grants to support artists and organizations in Richmond and central Virginia.

CultureWorks is a nonprofit organization based in Richmond with the goal of strengthening artists and organizations “to drive a greater impact in the community,” CultureWorks President Scott Garka said. 

CultureWorks also financially supports art and culture projects in greater Richmond and promotes art and culture events to the community, according to Garka.

“We try to remove barriers to enable everyone in our community to participate in the arts,” Garka said. “We want arts and culture to be by and for everyone.”

Last year, it gave over $85,000 to various individuals and organizations, according to a CultureWorks press release. This year, it’s doing it again. 

CultureWorks operates two types of grants: one around building capabilities and another focused on cultural equity, according to Garka. 

The building capabilities grants are limited to 10% of an organization’s budget and $6,000 for an artist. The cultural equity grants are no more than $29,500 for an organization or $6,000 for an artist, according to Garka.

Garka said the building capabilities grant helps artists and organizations “take their work to the next level,” in the form of training and equipment. 

“Our cultural equity grants support programs aimed at or elevating underrepresented communities,” Garka said.

Funding for CultureWorks grants comes from a variety of sources, including the Altria Group and the Community Foundation for a greater Richmond, alongside individual donations, according to Garka.

The main components of the application are a written grant proposal and letters from project collaborators. The application process is “rigorous” and involves the artists and organizations self-identifying the underrepresented community that their work stands to benefit, according to Garka. 

The program is currently limited to those who use their art as income and are not students, Garka said. He said he hopes students will stay in Richmond to contribute to the “vibrant community.”

“One day, maybe they can be one of those professional artists,” Garka said. “VCU is a tremendous arts school so we want many of those student artists to stay and become professional artists right here in the region.” 

The Latin Ballet of Virginia was one of the grant recipients in 2021 and used its award of $5,000 to fund programs for students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a CultureWorks press release from last year.

Former VCUarts faculty Ana Ines King, originally from Colombia, founded the Latin Ballet of Virginia in 2000. This was a time when American curiosity of other cultures was beginning to grow, according to King.

“It had a lot to do with how fast we were able to grow,” King said. “We had over 80 students very quickly.”

King said she drew on her and her family’s own difficult experience acclimating to American culture in founding Latin Ballet of Virginia.

“It’s a lot harder than you know,” King said. “We try to help people who might feel lost in this new place by promoting Latin American culture to Americans.”

Latin Ballet of Virginia’s goal is to educate Americans, specifically Virginians, on Latin and Hispanic culture through multicultural dance performances and instruction, according to their website

The Latin Ballet’s instruction methods are hands-on and interactive, so the pandemic proved a challenge for the Latin Ballet, according to King.

CultureWorks has been a supporter of Latin Ballet since the dance company’s beginning, according to King. She said they have been helpful in all facets of the organization, from aid in hiring new board members to supporting live performances.

One of the projects Latin Ballet of Virginia put on with the help of the CultureWorks grant was “Dancing with my Soul,” a series of online dance collaborations between members of the Latin Ballet and other dancers all over the world, according to King.

The project’s goal was to encourage dancers and artists to keep working on their craft, according to Adelle Broom, Latin Ballet instructor and company member.

“We want to share the joy of being true to yourself, loving yourself and spreading that love to everyone else,” Broom said. “That opportunity is rare, and so is CultureWorks. We applaud them and thank them.”

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