Grants to Arts and Culture Organizations

Community Orchestra Plays at Percival Landing

2021 Grants to Arts and Culture Organizations (GACO)

In 2021, the City is offering up to $20,000 for projects in the Grants to Arts and Culture Organizations (GACO) program. The GACO offers grants up to $5,000 for registered non-profit arts and culture organizations with a minimum two-year history of serving Olympia. Project review and approval is based on community involvement, organizational strength, and (project) potential for engagement.

COVID-19 considerations

The arts are deeply tied to community, and as such, have been extraordinarily affected by this pandemic and the inability to gather. These times and this opportunity conversely can offer the opportunity to rethink engagement – to meet the changing needs of audiences by working in a COVID safe way. Projects proposed for the 2021 grant cycle should be COVID responsive and all activities must meet local and state guidelines, and organizations must provide a social distancing plan for their site or activity.

The GACO Program funds projects that provide equitable access to the arts for all Olympians. The program goal is to expand citizen involvement with the arts, engage underserved populations, and promote the interests of the broader Olympia community.

The mission of the Olympia Arts Commission is to help enrich the lives of the people of the region by making visual, performing and literary arts vital elements in the life of our community.

We expect to fund successful applicants for the full amount of the project on a 50/50 match basis, cash and in-kind. For example, a $10,000 project would be considered for a $5,000 grant. Funding requests should not exceed 50% of total project expenses.

2021 application timeline (subject to change)

  • Applications available: September 2020
  • Application workshop: Wednesday, October 7, 2020 6-7 p.m. (Register)
      • Guest Speaker, Anne Larsen, Event Support, LLC: In her work, helping nonprofit organizations create great events, Anne has used her skills to adapt to the changing COVID landscape.
  • Application Deadline: November 4, 2020 11:59 p.m.
  • Arts Commission review for recommendation: November 12, 2020 (Agenda/Zoom link)
  • Council review & approval: November 2020 (Agenda/Zoom link)
  • Contracts: December 2020
  • Project completion date: December 2021
  • Project reports: January 2022

Application details & requirements

To apply for GACO support, an organization must have its primary location in Olympia and meet all of the following:

  • Mission and programs centered on arts and/or culture in Olympia,
  • Minimum two-year history of continuous operation serving Olympia residents,
  • Not-for-profit business structure 501(c)3,
  • At least one ongoing arts program open to the public in Olympia
  • A City of Olympia Business License

Previous grant recipients must wait one granting cycle before reapplying.

This program seeks to fund projects that engage citizens through the arts. Most projects must be completed by the end of a year (12 months from contract signature). Sculptural projects proposed to be placed in the public Right of Way may have a longer period for completion.

GACO funds must be used to support a project that is accessible to and provides public benefit for Olympia residents and visitors. This can be one of your core programs and services; or a new program or project.

Eligible project examples

  • Performance
  • Exhibits
  • Educational opportunities (presentations/lectures, workshops, walking tours, training, etc.)
  • Collaborations
  • Research, planning, and/or analysis that can help strengthen Olympia’s arts and cultural base
  • Innovative production that cultivates the cultural community

Ineligible project examples

  • Events not accessible to the public
  • School, college and university departments or programs that are part of regular or extra-curricular school programs
  • Religious services, or events or presentations in which fundraising is the primary purpose
  • Fundraisers
  • Lobbying efforts
  • Elections work
  • Personal Travel
  • Loans

Applications will be reviewed by members of the Olympia Arts Commission at their November 12, 6 p.m. meeting (Agenda/Zoom link). The committee’s recommendations will go to the City Council for review and approval.

Minimum requirements

All applications will be reviewed to determine that they meet the minimum requirements of the program. These are:

  1. Project benefits Olympia residents and visitors; and
  2. Project is accessible to the public.

The City reserves the right not to select any proposal at all, and reserves the right to change the process or schedule upon public notice.

Evaluation criteria

In addition to meeting the minimum project requirements, project proposals that demonstrate the following will be given first priority by the review committee:

Arts/Culture Organization

  • Community Involvement. Does the applicant demonstrate a history of involvement and activity within the community?
  • Organizational Strength. Does the prior work of the Arts/Culture Organization exhibit the capacity to complete the proposed project?
  • Potential for Engagement. Does the prior work of the Arts/Culture Organization demonstrate their ability to engage Olympia’s citizens in meaningful ways to expand involvement in the arts?

Does the project proposal?

  • Contribute to broad distribution of arts experiences throughout Olympia. Commissioners will consider the relative representation of art among City neighborhoods, and seek to distribute public art broadly throughout the community.
  • Provide for diverse forms of art within the community. A wide range of style, media, subjects and viewpoints will offer perspective and interest for everyone.
  • Bring new ideas, innovation, or thinking to the community.
  • Contribute to a balanced offering of arts experiences within the Olympia community?

Grant recipients will submit a report on their project within two months of project completion. This allows staff to share success stories with the City Council, staff and other Olympia residents. Highlights should include:

  1. Project description
  2. Process photos
  3. Number of participants
  4. Observations or stories of interest
  5. Financial project summary

This information will be presented to the City Council in recognition of the work of your organization to strengthen the Olympia community.

  1. Total Combined Grants: The City will accept grant proposals sponsored cooperatively by two or more registered non-profit arts organizations. Grant shall not exceed $5000.
  2. Full or Partial Awards: While the committee will strive to recommend the requested amount per project, they may also partially fund, at their discretion.
  3. Payments: Grants will be paid upon the submission of bona fide invoices & receipts for approved work. Receipts will be reimbursed to the organization or member who made the purchase; invoices can be paid directly to the provider of the goods/service or paid as a reimbursement to the organization or member. Grant Expense Forms must be submitted directly by the organization, not via a third party.
  4. Carryover: A carryover of grant funds to the following year may conditionally be approved one time only, in advance, at the City’s discretion. Carryovers for more than one additional year will not be considered.
  5. Limitations: Projects that require exceptional public process or changes to existing ordinances (such as zone changes and public hearings) will not be considered.
  6. Insurance: Selected Arts/Culture Organizations must carry insurance to the City’s specifications during the time span of the project. The Agency shall carry for the duration of this Contract Commercial General Liability of not less than $1,000,000 per occurrence and $2,000,000 aggregate. The comprehensive liability policy called for must have a forty-five (45) day cancellation notice if canceled or altered by any party. A Certificate of Insurance including the forty-five (45) day notice provision shall be provided to the City within one (1) week after the execution of this Contract. For independent contractors who may not typically carry liability insurance such that purchasing a policy may be a barrier to submitting an application, the City will allow up to $500 of the grant to pay for the cost to purchase insurance.

Instant poetry booth at Olympia Arts Walk

2021 grant recipients

In 2021, the $20,000 in available grants was split among five arts and culture organizations to fund the following programs:

  • Arbutus Folk School: Scholarship program for 50 or more young people to learn to build a wooden boat, use a loom to create their own textiles, carve local sandstone with a master stone-carver, and more.
  • Thurston Climate Action Team: Working with artist Carrie Ziegler, will host a community workshop bringing climate change, COVID-19, and racial justice issues together with art, resulting in a public mural project.
  • Olympia Arts + Heritage Alliance: An ongoing series of exhibitions at the historic 1912 City Hall/Fire Station in the heart of downtown. "It's the Water" – is the first series of images that can be viewed safely outside the building, by car, and virtually on AHA!'s website
  • Hummingbird Studio: General operating support for free Zoom classes which foster creativity, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and for individual art kit supplies to be distributed to local artists
  • The Bridge Music Project: The Bridge Music Project intends to host an eight-week community songwriting workshop for 25 youth, virtual and/or in person when allowed, where youth will work together as teams to write, record and perform original music that shares their stories.

2020 grant recipients

In 2020, the $18,451 grant funding was split among seven arts organizations to fund the following programs:

  • Ballet Northwest: Free Access to Ballet Northwest's 50th Anniversary Production
  • Northwest Playrights Alliance: Hotel Olympian 100th Anniversary Birthday Bash theatrical production
  • Olympia Symphony: "Beat Beethoven 5K" Concert & Fun Run
  • Washington Center for the Performing Arts: Independent Artist Incubator

2019 grant recipients

In 2019, the $20,000 in available grants was split among seven arts organizations to fund the following programs:

  • Olympia Artspace Alliance: Create a series of art installations in vacant storefront windows in downtown Olympia.
  • Olympia Film Collective: Support a short film project developed, written and produced by Inter-Tribal Youth reflecting life ways and cultures of the Coast Salish people.
  • Arbutus Folk School: Assist in socially engaged art activities that bring art to those in Olympia with the least access to it, specifically foster or homeless youth and people living in homeless camps.
  • The Bridge Music Project: Sponsor an eight week songwriting workshop for at-risk youth, culminating in a performance showcase for the community at large.
  • Olympia Family Theater: Provide tickets and free admission for theater experiences for the youngest members of our community, ages 0-5, directly to agencies that serve the underserved.
  • Animal Fire Theater: Assist in capital investment in portable set equipment for free, annual performances of Shakespeare in the Park.
  • Hummingbird Studio: Support growth and expansion (from one to two days) of a free, inclusive community art program, welcome to all but specifically serving individuals with disabilities, their caregivers and families (as shown above).


Contact Stephanie Johnson at or 360.709.2678