New England Center for Circus Arts in the halcyon days of in-person tumbling. Photo credit: Elsie Smith/NECCA
Emergency Grants Bridge Gaps for Vermont Cultural Organizations

MONTPELIER, VT—Vermont Humanities and the Vermont Arts Council together have now distributed nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in emergency relief grants to 122 Vermont cultural organizations, including museums, libraries, performing arts venues, and other cultural centers.

The Covid-19 Cultural Relief Grant Program supported humanities and arts organizations struggling to survive the economic fallout resulting from the pandemic.

The grants were for general operating expenses of $5,000 to $10,000 depending on organization size. The program was seeded by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.

While the money available from the Cultural Relief Grant Program has already been allocated, the need continues to far outstrip available funding, including the current $5 million in emergency relief grants for cultural nonprofits passed by the Vermont legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Scott last week. Organizations applying for Cultural Relief grants reported approximately $35.4 million in current and projected losses through the remaining months of this year.

The Opera Company of Middlebury, now in its 17th season, was facing its first year without a production of any kind. The June production, Tchaikovsky’s Maid of Orleans, was canceled due to the virus, causing nearly 60 Vermont singers, musicians and staff members to go without a paycheck.

“This grant supports our plan to produce an innovative, socially-distanced video production this fall, putting these talented people back to work, and bringing opera once again to the Vermont audience,” said Artistic Director Douglas Anderson.

For the New England Center for Circus Arts, located in Brattleboro, the grant will help the organization shift some of its educational programming online. “This grant will be instrumental in helping us weather change, providing transformative experiences for students through circus arts while maintaining a workplace for our 50 plus coaches and staff. The effect of funding is essential to NECCA, and important for our community, from students to coaches to the town we call home,” said Founder and Producing Director Serenity Smith Forchion.

The Barre Historical Society, which owns the Socialist Labor Party Hall National Historic Landmark in Barre, received a relief grant for $5,000. "Like a lot of the cultural institutions that have benefitted from this wonderful program, the Labor Hall has been empty since the lockdown" said Vice President Karen Lane.

She noted that many families and groups in the Barre community rent the Labor Hall for events such as baby showers and birthday parties, and that this rental income provides much of the organization’s budget. “The grant is a lifesaver for us, because we have bills to pay whether we're open or not,” Lane said.

The Vermont Granite Museum, the Barre Opera House, and Studio Place Arts also received relief grants. “All of these places give us an appreciation of our shared history in Barre,” Lane said.

Vermont’s cultural and creative sectors provide more than 40,000 jobs annually and comprise 9.3% of all employment in Vermont, higher than the national average.

For a list of the recipients of emergency relief grants, visit on the Vermont Humanities website, or on the Vermont Arts Council’s website.


The Vermont Arts Council envisions a Vermont where all people have access to the arts and creativity in their lives, education, and communities. Engagement with the arts transforms individuals, connects us more deeply to each other, energizes the economy, and sustains the vibrant cultural landscape that makes Vermont a great place to live. Since 1965, the Council has been the state's primary provider of funding, advocacy, and information for the arts in Vermont. Learn more at

About Vermont Humanities
A statewide nonprofit organization founded in 1974, Vermont Humanities seeks to engage all Vermonters in the world of ideas, foster a culture of thoughtfulness, and inspire a lifelong love of reading and learning. Learn more at

Catherine Crawley, VAC Communications Director, , 802-828-5422
Ryan Newswanger, VH Communications Director, , 802-262-1354