COUDERSPORT — Tia DeShong of the Elk County Council on the Arts Gallery shined some light on the organization and explained why artisans in Potter County should care about something in Elk County at the last Potter County Commissioners meeting.
Although it has “Elk County” in the title, it’s a partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and represents five counties in rural Pennsylvania, including Potter and McKean Counties.
It’s a state agency and in the early 2000s switched from having it all based in Harrisburg to having regional partnerships, DeShong said, to create a more equitable access across the state.
Through Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the ECCOTA has two main programs. One is Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts, a grant for public art projects. There’s a project stream for a “one and done” project, DeShong said, such as a mural or a statue, where an applicant could receive up to $2,500. There is also a program stream for recurring programs that would happen every year. Applicants could be awarded up to $3,000.
For the project stream grant, projects must be related to the arts and there needs to be a public component.
“The point of these grants is to be benefiting these communities,” DeShong said, “So you have to make it easily accessible to the public — they don’t have to pay a fee to get in — and it’s benefiting them in some way.” Different organizations, including schools, libraries and municipalities, can apply for the grant.
Guidelines for the grant open in May and applications are due by June 20. The grant application is a question and answer format, rather than long form.
“It’s intentionally made to be easy because this is for community organizations and community artists,” DeShong said.
Applications are judged on a regional level by a panel of judges who have been heavily involved in the arts of their communities. There is one judge from each county of the region; this year’s Potter County judge was Doug Firestone of Firestone Forge in Germania.
The other major stipulation to the grant is it must be used in the same year as it is awarded; ECCOTA runs on a fiscal year, running from September through August.
DeShong hopes to see more applicants from Potter County apply for grants this year. She said this year everyone in the county who applied for a grant was awarded one, but the county received the least amount of money of all of the counties in the region.
A year-round program the ECCOTA does is called the Arts in the Education Council. Through this program, an artist becomes rostered with ECCOTA and is hired to do programs and residencies in the community.
A rostered artist will be placed in a school or a community group to do a 10-20 day residency. The residency goes beyond art. If an artist does a residency at a senior center or an assisted living facility, art will be integrated with their care plans through occupational therapy.
Julie Mader, of McKean County, has been at Sweden Valley Manor doing just this. She is known nationally for her work in “creative aging,” DeShong said.
Firestone hasalso been involved in this program; he has done some residencies in elementary schools with blacksmithing.
The residency requires a 50/50 match, where ECCOTA provides 50% and the host site provides the other half; all of the money goes to the artist. Usually a residency is $200 per day.
This program is great for retired art teachers and artists who teach art during the school year but need something in the summer, DeShong said.
The biggest struggle in planning the residencies is for the host site to provide half of the funding; DeShong will help them find other sources of revenue to help them offset the cost.Also during the Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Susan Kefover talked about USDA grants and loans. One of the programs they offer is the single family repair loan and grant, where the goal is to help low-income applicants with health and safety hazards, or repair their homes. Families and individuals who currently own their own home and need to repair, replace roof, winterize, purchase or repair heating systems, structural repair, water/sewer connect fees, etc. are eligible in rural areas with a population up to 35,000 can get a direct loan or grant. The loans go up to $20,000 for 20 years at 1%. Grants are available to very low-income applications 62 years or older who are unable to repay a 1% loan.
Kefover suggested those who might qualify should contact Ann Boyd in the Clinton Area Office at 570-749-3070.“This is an excellent program,” Kefover said. She said Potter County citizens aren’t taking advantage of these opportunities. She has information on all the programs USDA offers.