In a normal year, Cambridge would be getting ready for Midwest FireFest.

This month, we’d also be sipping wine at artist popups, picnicking at outdoor concerts and enjoying other art festivals and gallery nights. We’d be taking in community theater productions by groups like Cambridge-Deerfield Players Theater.

But just as it did with almost every other industry, COVID-19 has hit the arts hard. As virus infections resurge, that may not turn around soon.

Of course, art is not just something to appreciate. In Wisconsin and locally, it is a major economic driver. Its shutdown is hurting both the state and large and small communities that rely on arts tourism events.

Local residents can be encouraged to buy art online and to attend virtual concerts, but with ongoing business closures leaving a lot of people out of work, that only goes so far.

And so, we’re thankful for arts lifelines like Dane Arts Need Grant (DANG!) program.

This year, Dane Arts expects to award over $250,000 in public-private funds to nonprofit organizations, schools, individuals, and municipalities for arts, cultural, and local history projects and programs.

The DANG! grants are being funded by Dane County in conjunction with private donations from groups like the Endres Manufacturing Co. Foundation, the Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of The Capital Times, the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation, and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.

Recently, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission announced the latest round of DANG! awards, amounting to about $138,000. The more than 70 recipients’ specialties ran the gamut from writing to music, dance, theater and visual art.

The next project grant deadline is coming up fast, at 4 p.m. on Aug. 1. It is open to individual Dane County artists who have lost income due to canceled events or other factors related to the pandemic.

Applicants can receive up to $500 each. They must be a working artist with a history of at least two years of ongoing artistic activity.

Funds can support the development of an online presence or present a forum through a live feed of music, theater, dance, performance art, history and/or multidisciplinary work. Artists can also use the funds to support the purchase of supplies and/or to further develop their skills.

As the Aug. 1 grant deadline approaches, we encourage local artists to apply, in hopes that even a small amount of funding will help get them through the rest of this year.

And we encourage those with the means, and a passion for the arts, to consider privately donating to this fund.

For more information on applying or donating, reach out by phone to (608) 512-6225 or by email at fraire@countyofdane.com

We look forward to better days, and for now appreciate this effort to sustain those whose work dually brings joy and drives our economy.

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