NEA reinstates Arts Council’s eligibility to apply for federal grants

Source: Marianas Variety

Reporter: Lori Lyn C. Lirio

​THE National Endowment for Arts has reinstated the Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture’s eligibility to apply for state partnership grants.

​Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter said the NEA informed them that the Arts Council is now eligible to apply after the federal grantor reviewed and accepted the end-of-year Final Descriptive Report for the FY13 partnership agreement and the list of other items that the CNMI submitted.

​“As part of the preparation for grant application, we are going to be scheduling public hearings to gauge what areas are important to the community, and talk about some of the ideas we have for a re-envisioning of the [Arts Council] and how it will address community arts programs under this grant,” Hunter said, adding that the deadline for submitting a grant application is on Sept. 28.

​The NEA has suspended the Arts Council’s eligibility for applying grants through January 2018.

​Hunter said “this happened due to the mismanagement of the grant, which included not facilitating the projects noted in the application, purchasing items that were unallowable or required permission that was not received, having little to no documentation/reports on sub-grant projects, and not providing the end-of-year grant report. This was a big deal at the time, as the inspector general for the NEA and auditors working for them visited the CNMI to investigate the matter and that investigation ultimately led to the Arts Council losing the NEA grant.”

​It was the second time that the Arts Council lost its NEA grant. In 2007, the grantor declared the Arts Council ineligible for seven years.

​“There were more serious charges [at the time] because of what was determined to be purposeful mishandling and misspending. It was treated more seriously than the loss of FY13 grant,” Hunter said.

The Arts Council used to carry out a year-long calendar of arts workshops in schools, evening programs and arts exhibits all of which did not happen over the last few years because of the loss of the grant, Hunter said.

​He said in the past, Arts Council received about $300,000 a year in grants from NEA that was matched by the CNMI government.

​Should they get a grant this year, Hunter said they will receive funding in Oct. 2019 and the Arts Council will have more than half-a-million dollars once again to put towards arts programming.

​In order that the council not find itself ineligible again, Hunter said they are going to revise the way the grant is managed and grant programs implemented, possibly following a model that is akin to how the Humanities Council carries out the majority of its programs. The Arts Council will have a few signature programs and the rest of its programs and activities will be facilitated through sub-grants.

​“We are looking at having a few major activities we coordinate in-house and the rest of the money will be put out to sub-grants or community grant applications,” Hunter said.

​“We used to have an annual calendar of activities and we used all our staff to carry them out The staff were breaking their backs from implementing the projects and were not able to focus on all the administrative work required of the grant, like evaluating the programs, preparing documentation and project, quarterly and year-end reports.”

​He said under their new model, they will focus more on a strategy to identify and address specific programming areas, carry out required project evaluation and documentation and make sure that the grant money is spent properly and is accounted for. “We are excited about the prospect of once again being able to provide for significant arts programming, and as excited about ensuring that the Arts Council is set up to competently manage future grants,” Hunter said.

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