Marc Wasson (left) and Caitlyn Wise act out a scene in the 2019 Keizer Homegrown Theater production of Who am I this Time (& Other Conundrums of Love).
It has been well documented how non-profit organizations have been deeply affected by the spread of COVID-19.
Keizer Homegrown Theater (KHT) had six productions, as well as a litany of renovations, planned for 2020 before the theater was forced to temporarily shut down operations due to the coronavirus — KHT did produce an online-only show a few weeks ago.
Last week, however, the theater found out that they will be receiving crucial grant money from the Oregon Cultural Trust Grant — to the tune of $9,182 — to help ensure that KHT will be able to continue producing content during and after the pandemic.
“We are really grateful that this happened. It was a phenomenal gift to us. It’s keeping us alive,” said Linda Baker, the founder of KHT. “We are good stewards of our money. This gives the opportunity to not start off next year flat-footed.”
More than $25 million was awarded in COVID-19 relief to 621 organizations across the state through the Coronavirus Relief Fund Cultural Support grant, thanks to a partnership between the Oregon Cultural Trust and its County and Tribal Cultural Coalitions.
The Marion County Development Corporation received a total of $835,398.
“Many cultural organizations and institutions have closed their doors to help keep us all safe during this pandemic. These grants will mean that more than 600 Oregon arts and culture organizations across our state’s counties and Tribes will be able to keep up their vital creative work,” said Governor Kate Brown.
Baker said that the grant is critical for the troupe because it will mean not relying on donations at a time when most are worried or uncertain about finances. During a typical year, ticket sales would be the top moneymaker for KHT.
“I’m glad we don’t have to ask the community for help, because everyone is hurting right now,” Baker said.
The money KHT received will go directly toward finishing renovations and renting out their space at the Keizer Cultural Center.
New LED lights, dressing rooms and storage space are just a few of the new features that will be on display at KHT when the doors reopen.
“When we finally open up again, it will be a jewel of a theater,” Baker said. “We are really excited.”
KHT is hoping to also provide theater and directing classes staring next year, as well as an acting class for anyone with a disability.
Baker’s hope is that they will be able to reopen the theater in March and that the grant will stabilize finances for the next year.
“This puts us on an even-keel going into 2021,” Baker said.
Baker also gave a lot of credit to Kelly Walther, the writer of the approved grant for KHT.
“Kelly is a wonder woman. She saved us,” Baker said.
Walther, who works in Salem for Grant Services of America, also wrote a grant that earned the Keizer Heritage Foundation $20,050. The Keizer Heritage Foundation acts as caretaker for the Keizer Cultural Center. The cultural center is home to not only KHT, but also the Keizer Community Library, Keizer Heritage Museum and the Keizer Art Association.
“These organizations are very important to the culture and fabric of our community and I hope everyone in Keizer supports them while they are able to,” Walther added.