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WarnerMedia, AT&T create $250,000 COVID-19 fund for Atlanta arts groups

Actor's Express -a recent production (Special: Actor's Express)

By Maria Saporta

Responding to a critical need of Atlanta-based arts and cultural institutions, WarnerMedia and AT&T are establishing a COVID-19 relief fund of $250,000.

The relief fund is focusing on making donations to  small- and medium-sized arts and cultural groups in metro Atlanta. Nearly 20 arts organizations will receive grants from the $250,000 fund.

A recent production of Actor’s Express (Special: Actor’s Express)

“We believe storytelling is a vehicle for impact and social change,” said Dennis Williams, WarnerMedia’s senior vice president for Corporate Social Responsibility, in a statement.  “WarnerMedia remains committed to Atlanta, and this relief fund, combined with our regular funding, represents a total investment of over $1 million in funding to Atlanta arts and cultural organizations this year.”

The new fund is in response to an urgent appeal that local arts groups made last month about the financial and operational disruption caused by the coronavirus.

“It’s a very precarious time, especially for mid-sized arts groups,” said Lara Smith, managing partner of Dad’s Garage, said in an interview. “It’s really exciting to see WarnerMedia and AT&T step up in in this way. I hope it will inspire other companies to step up.”

Last month, Smith spearheaded an effort to survey 59 local cultural organizations to find out how COVID-19 was affecting their operations.

“Atlanta is blessed with a number of arts and cultural institutions – creatives and storytellers, who help drive a healthy economy as they foster vitality in our city,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, in a statement. “A special thank you to WarnerMedia and AT&T for providing resources that elevate our Atlanta storytellers and allow these local nonprofits to continue inspiring us all, especially now when we need it most.”

AT&T Georgia President Venessa Harrison with AT&T COO John Stankey, who is also CEO of WarnerMedia in December 2019 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

This COVID-19 relief funding is in addition to the ongoing financial support the companies give to these organizations. Relief grants range in size from $10,000 to $25,000. The Atlanta COVID-19 fund is part of the relief support WarnerMedia and AT&T are providing in response to the global pandemic.

“At AT&T, one of our core values is to be there when people need us most,” said Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T Georgia. “We are proud to collaborate with our colleagues at WarnerMedia to be there for our arts and cultural organizations here in Atlanta. Elevating our creators and storytellers has never been more important.”

Since temporarily closing doors in March, local nonprofits are channeling creativity to share arts and culture in news ways – from offering free and paid online programming to households hungry for entertaining and educational content to virtual museum tours to special funds to support local artists impacted by COVID-19.

“It’s nice we can continue paying our bills,” said Smith, who added that the need far exceeds available resources. “The survey indicated there already had been $10 million in losses.”

Hammonds House in West End (Special: Hammonds House)

Then there’s great uncertainty about if and when arts organizations will be able to resume normal operations.

“People are operating under different assumptions of when they’ll be able to reopen,” Smith said. “Social distancing is quite hard to practice in a traditional theater setting – not just for the audience, but also for the artists.”

There also is great concern that many arts organizations may not be able to survive through the pandemic and beyond.

“Everyone is in danger,” Smith said. “It’s so challenging when none of us know when we can regather.”

The grant recipients of the WarnerMedia-AT&T COVID-19 relief fund include:

Actor’s Express: https://www.actors-express.com/
ARTS ATL: https://www.artsatl.org/
Atlanta Ballet: https://www.atlantaballet.com/
Atlanta Contemporary: https://atlantacontemporary.org/
The Atlanta Opera: https://www.atlantaopera.org/
C4 Atlanta: https://c4atlanta.org/
Center for Civil & Human Rights: https://www.civilandhumanrights.org/
Center of Puppetry Arts: https://puppet.org/
Dad’s Garage Theatre: https://dadsgarage.com/
Dance Canvas Balletique: https://www.dancecanvas.com/home
Hammonds House Museum: https://www.hammondshouse.org/
Horizon Theatre: https://www.horizontheatre.com/
Moving in the Spirit: http://www.movinginthespirit.org/
National Black Arts Festival: http://nbaf.org/
Serenbe Playhouse: https://serenbeplayhouse.org/
Synchronicity Performance Group: https://www.synchrotheatre.com/
Theatrical Outfit: https://www.theatricaloutfit.org/
TILA Studios: https://www.tilastudios.com/
True Colors Theatre: https://truecolorstheatre.org/

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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