Jonathon Glus / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

This post originally appeared in the August 6 Culture Report. Get the Culture Report delivered to your inbox.

In July, the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture announced that $11.4 million in arts nonprofit funding will be distributed for fiscal year 2020, which is nearly identical to awards given last year. The number of orgs receiving funding, however, increased and many nonprofits saw an increase in their funding over last year. With the stagnant award purse, this means that something had to give. Which organizations saw cuts from their prior awards?

The Organizational Support Program is a somewhat unique grant for nonprofits because rather than being tied to a specific project or deliverable spelled out on a grant application, it provides funding for overall operations other essential components of the nonprofit’s work. Combined with the Creative Communities San Diego program, funding was allocated to 159 nonprofits for fiscal year 2020, up from 2019’s 147 and 2018’s 133.

“The actual amount an organization receives is based on many variables, including the number of organizations receiving funds, annual changes in revenue for each organization and for those organizations that compete in the panel review process, the organization’s panel score,” said Jonathan Glus, the executive director of the city’s Commission for Arts and Culture.

Ranking arts nonprofits receive at minimum $5,000, and at the most, no more than 10 percent of the total funds allocated.

Last year, when allocations were announced, six of the eight staff positions on the Commission for Arts and Culture sat vacant, a search was underway for a new executive director and the commission was under some scrutiny. Large allocations to major nonprofits have been criticized in the past, such as Comic-Con International, which in fiscal year 2019 was granted $489,802. (Worth repeating: PGK Dance Project’s Peter Kalivas told VOSD last year, “No organization needs more than $300,000 from the city.”)

This year, with Glus settled in his role since November, he highlights that the agency is now adequately staffed. “We are very pleased to have more staff on board now, and scheduling a meeting for a one-on-one will be quite easy,” said Glus.

Comic-Con International’s allocation was also reduced. This year’s award came in at $370,237. Still approximately 74 times the minimum allocation, it’s nearly $120,000 less than the organization received last year.

Other organizations that saw reductions in allocations since last year include: Mingei International Museum (a $48,168 drop from 2019’s $196,511 to 2020’s $148,343); San Diego Symphony (a $31,988 reduction from $490,787 in 2019 to $458,799 in 2020); the Fleet Science Center (a $59,200 drop from $352,986 in 2019 to $293,786 in 2020) and Space 4 Art — with a smaller overall operating budget than the nonprofits listed above — which saw a reduction of $9,156 from 2019’s $35,184 to 2020’s $26,028. Because the funding process is increasingly transparent, most nonprofits were not surprised by the changes.

Space 4 Art’s executive director, Jennifer de Poyen, understands the circumstances that led to the reduction. “The OSP grants are tied to operating income, and our operating income was reduced in the year under review (2017) due to our landlord’s decision to take back half our space at our current East Village facility, with no reduction in rent, which effectively increased our operating expenses AND hampered our ability to generate earned income,” said de Poyen.

She stressed that when Space 4 Art owns its facility (versus renting), the ensuing stability of operations and budget will mean less volatile OSP funding in the future.

“This year’s reduced OSP award will require some belt-tightening for our current operations but will not affect the timeline for the Arts Center Project,” she said. “We are grateful to the city for the continued support for our operations, programs and Arts Center project.”

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