The historic Panida Theater, the Festival at Sandpoint and several other arts groups here hauled in more than $45,000 Thursday.
At six press conferences across the state, including one in Sandpoint, the Idaho Commission on the Arts handed out $473,956 worth of grants.
Of the 39 towns earning cash awards, Sandpoint’s arts community landed the third-largest chunk, trailing only Boise and Moscow.
“We have one of the strongest, most exciting arts communities in Idaho,” said Marilyn Sabella, a Sandpoint board member for the Idaho Commission on the Arts.
The Panida, a mission-style theater the community bought and saved from demolition 10 years ago, received just over $19,000.
“This will help us keep the doors open and help us make it through another year,” said Panida manager Karen Bowers.
The money will cover some operating costs and pay for new restrooms, an announcement that drew applause from the small crowd gathered at the theater.
The Festival at Sandpoint, the city’s popular summer music program, earned $9,555 to help sponsor symphony concerts, and the Pend Oreille Arts Council received another $8,840.
The Arts Council brings performers from across the United States to Sandpoint, including the San Francisco Opera.
“It’s almost unheard of for a town this size to bring in the San Francisco Opera every year. We are the smallest town they come to,” said council director Ginny Robideaux.
The Idaho State Legislature increased funding for the arts this year, providing 59 percent of the grant money for local arts groups which are required to provide matching funds.
The rest of the grant money came from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), a group fighting the congressional budget axe.
Sabella urged grant recipients to show their support for the NEA and pointed to a pin made of two postage stamps she was wearing.
“Sixty-four cents per U.S. citizen goes to the NEA. That’s it, two postage stamps. Without it we wouldn’t be here today,” she said.
Ten years ago the state ranked 56th per capita in funding for the arts. That was dead last behind Guam and five other territories. Today Idaho ranks 29th.
“We have come a long way,” Sabella said.
Other grant recipients included: The Carrousel Players of Coeur d’Alene, $4,590; the Lake City Playhouse, $3,590; Post Falls Arts Commission, $5,713; and the Bonner County School District, $3,480 for an artist in residence at Stidwell Elementary and a project at Clark Fork High School.
The commission had requests totaling $1.3 million.
“We were able to fund only 39 percent of the requests, and I think the Commission made prudent choices,” said Margot Knight, executive director of the arts commission.