Matty Sangare, Sola Thompson and Jacqueline Nwabueze perform in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s “Eclipsed,” the last show the Rep performed before the COVID-19 pandemic closed local theaters in March. (Photo: MIchael Brosilow)

Gov. Tony Evers has announced a $5 million grant program to help Wisconsin cultural groups hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To be eligible, organizations “must have a primary mission to produce, present or exhibit cultural disciplines such as music, dance, theater, literature and the visual arts, or items of environmental or scientific interest,” the governor’s office said in a statement released Thursday.

A Wisconsin Policy Forum report published in August said the arts and culture sector in Wisconsin is facing an “existential threat” from the pandemic. It estimates that 33.9% of people employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector in this state filed initial claims for unemployment between March 15 and July 5.

“I worry about a lot of the smaller companies in town,” Jack R. Lemmon, managing director of Skylight Music Theatre, said in a recent interview. “I expect a number of them will not be around at the end of this.” 

The state Department of Administration will administer the grant program. Grants can be used for such pandemic-related expenses as lost revenue, increased workers compensation costs, cleaning and sanitization, and purchases of services or equipment to facilitate telework by employees. 

Maximum grant awards for individual organizations will be $250,000 or 25% of the organization’s average three previous fiscal years of operating revenue, whichever is less. 

Groups must be nonprofits with 501(c)3 status and have been operating since at least March 1, 2019. 

Application deadline is 2 p.m. Sept. 30. DOA plans to hold a webinar for groups interested in applying on Sept. 10.

For information about the cultural grants program, visit

Funds for this grant program come from Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars.

Contact Jim Higgins at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jhiggy.

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