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ArtsWA adds three new 'Creative Districts,' funds arts for veterans

The Washington State Arts Commission, which goes by ArtsWA, approved a second round of grants for arts programming specifically for military communities and veterans.

The Wellness, Arts, and the Military program started offering grants last year. Program Manager Bryan Bales said it’s the only state program of its kind in the nation. A veteran himself, he sees the value in art as therapy and the potential even to prevent death by suicide.

"The key factors of that are physical, invisible wounds, isolation, and a myriad of other things. But the arts is a way to build community with other veterans, it's a way to heal, it's a way to talk, and it's a way to work through trauma that may have happened," Bales said.

This year, 17 organizations will receive state grants of up to $35,000 for their work with veterans and art. They include the Buffalo Soldiers Museum of Tacoma, Veterans of Foreign Wars in Monroe, and the Boys and Girls Club of Yakama Nation.

In addition to approving grants for the Wellness, Arts, and the Military program, the board also certified three new areas as “Creative Districts.”

Since 2018, 13 districts across the state have been designated as “Creative Districts.” Now, Bremerton, Anacortes, and Newport, which sits right on the border of Washington and Idaho, will be added to the list.

Annette Roth leads the program, which she said is first and foremost an economic development program. Applicants have to show how they plan to grow jobs in the creative sector, increase tourism and attract artists, startups, and creative businesses.

"There are approximately 40 narrative questions that they have to provide to us, including information about demographics, their strategic plan, budget information, how everything within their strategic plan can contribute to the local economy," Roth said.

With certification, these districts get access to up to $50,000 in capital funding for small-scale projects and $10,000 for launch expenses.

Grace Madigan is KNKX's former Arts & Culture reporter. Her stories focused on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.