Wood County's arts and culture sector is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in a big way. Area agencies and artists are dealing with cancellations of shows and closure of venues, and for many, these cancellations are putting a financial strain on organizational operations.

For example, the Smoot Theatre and the Actors Guild of Parkersburg had to cancel numerous performances and programs that provide income. The Parkersburg Art Center's income has been impacted significantly due to the cancellation of classes and the inability to rent their venue space. At the same time, these organizations have taken innovative approaches to continuing to offer services in new ways.

While many of the area's cultural and arts institutions were able to access federal CARES act loans and grants to help them through this challenging time, more support is needed to ensure that these critical community organizations can remain sustainable. The Parkersburg Area Community Foundation (PACF) is stepping up to help.

The PACF recognizes the importance of investing in our community's arts and cultural resources as they play a major role in community development and tourism, personal and community enrichment, and individual well-being. Several arts organizations are anchors for downtown Parkersburg development and revitalization. Recently, the Foundation reached out to Wood County's arts and culture community to identify needs and opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Foundation then recruited assistance from participants in its Civic Leaders Fellowship Program to review each organization's needs and award relief grants.

Last week, the PACF awarded a total of $16,000 in operating support grants to five area agencies: West Virginia Symphony Orchestra – Parkersburg, Smoot Theatre, Artsbridge, Parkersburg Art Center, and Actors Guild of Parkersburg

These grants will provide needed and immediate assistance to help each of the organizations during this unprecedented time. With the many unknowns facing our country and community in the upcoming weeks and months due to the pandemic, the PACF encourages area citizens to continue supporting area arts and culture programs.

There are a variety of ways to continue to engage with these important community organizations - participate in online classes, workshops, and performances hosted by area arts groups, donate tickets to cancelled events and membership dues back to the organization in lieu of a refund, donate directly to your favorite agency, and encourage friends and family to get involved.

Individuals who would like to make an impact in the region's arts and culture community are encouraged to contact the Foundation at 304-428-4438 to discuss options and opportunities to make a meaningful difference.