Model ship at the Polson Museum, a CARES Humanities Relief Grant recipient. Photo via Wikimedia Commons. Back To All Blog Posts

Humanities Washington Gives Over $500,000 to Cultural Organizations Affected by COVID-19

The funds, provided through the National Endowment for the Humanities, provide Washington State’s museums and cultural centers with needed relief.

This past spring, in what is likely a first, every museum and cultural center in Washington State shut down. Empty auditoriums and vacant exhibit spaces meant a devastating loss not only of valuable community spaces, but of revenue for a sector that already operates on thin margins. And in the face of a pandemic that continues unabated, the cultural sector will be among the last to reopen because of social distancing requirements.

Through a grants program funded by the CARES Act via the National Endowment for the Humanities, nonprofit Humanities Washington just finished distributing $522,000 to 108 cultural organizations who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The CARES Act Humanities Relief Grants, as they were called, provided needed relief for a sector in unprecedented turmoil.

“The impact of COVID-19 on our communities’ cultural organizations is almost impossible to fathom,” said Shelley Saunders, chief resource development officer at Humanities Washington. “But we also know that the sector is resourceful and creative, and it was deeply gratifying to provide support.”

Though the NEH funds were distributed at the same time nationally, Humanities Washington was among the first organizations to begin funding. And the application process was designed with speed in mind.

“We know that on a good day most cultural orgs are overworked,” said Saunders. “When you add a pandemic and a massive loss of funding and staff, the result is an emergency. So we set out to make applying as easy and painless as possible. The whole process only took applicants about half an hour.”

Rural organizations and those serving people of color have been particularly hard hit, and special attention was given to their funding. Of the 108 cultural institutions, nearly half were designated as rural or serving BIPOC communities. Priority was also given to organizations outside King County.

Half a million dollars is a small fraction of the amount of revenue lost for the sector, and massive challenges remain. In a survey of how COVID-19 has affected the state’s cultural sector, conducted by a consortium of humanities and arts organizations including Humanities Washington, it was found that 45% of the state’s cultural organizations can only cover up to three months of operating expenses with their cash reserves. While 66% of organizations estimate that their reopening startup costs will be less than $10,000, the majority of organizations can cover less than 50% of those costs. Though modest, the grants from Humanities Washington of up to $5,000 each could make a significant impact, especially for smaller organizations.

The grants reached every corner of Washington State, and covered all ten congressional districts. See below for a full list of grantees.

CARES Act Humanities Relief Grant recipients:

206 Zulu

9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum

ADEFUA Cultural Education Workshop

Arbutus Folk School

Asia Pacific Cultural Center

Autism Empowerment

Bainbridge Island Historical Society

Blue Earth Alliance

Celtic Arts Foundation

Center for Religious Humanism

Center for World Indigenous Studies

Children’s Museum of Skagit County

Chinook Indian Nation

Coastal Interpretive Center

Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum



Duwamish Tribal Services

East Benton County Historical Society & Museum

El Centro de la Raza

Filipino American National Historical Society Yakima Chapter

Fort Nisqually Foundation

Fort Walla Walla Museum

Friends of Mukai

Friends of Skamokawa

Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center

George Weyerhaeuser Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection dba Pacific Bonsai Museum

Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society dba Harbor History Museum

Greentrike (Children’s Museum of Tacoma)


Highline Heritage Museum

Holocaust Center for Humanity

Huong Viet Performing Arts Group

Island County Historical Society Museum

Jack Straw Cultural Center

Jefferson County Historical Society

Key City Players, Inc

Kitsap County Historical Society

KYRS Thin Air Community Radio

Lewis County Historical Museum

Living Voices

Look, Listen and Learn

Lopez Island Historical Society

Lynden Heritage Foundation

Makah Cultural and Research Center

Maple Valley Creative Arts Council

Maryhill Museum of Art

Mason County Historical Society

Meaningful Movies Project

Methow Arts Alliance

Methow Field Institute d/b/a Methow Valley Interpretive Center

Native Arts & Cultures Foundation

New Dungeness Light Station Association

Nikkei Heritage Association of Washington

Northern Kittitas County Historical Society

Northwest African American Museum

Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Northwest Railway Museum

Olympia Film Society

Orquesta Northwest

Pickford Film Center

Pioneer Farm Museum

Poetry Northwest

Polson Museum

Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation

Poulsbo Historical Society

Rainier Avenue Radio

Redmond Historical Society

Regional Theatre of the Palouse

Salish School of Spokane

San Juan Historical Society and Museum

Scarecrow Video

Seattle Latino Film Festival

Shakespeare Uncork’d Walla Walla, dba Shakespeare Walla Walla


Skagit County Historical Musuem

South Sound Reading Foundation

Spokane Valley Heritage Museum


Squaxin Island Museum Library and Research Center

Steilacoom Historical Museum

Steilacoom Tribal Cultural Center and Museum

Stonerose Interpretive Center and Fossil Site

Tacoma Historical Society

The Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas

The Historic Trust

The Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery

Thorp Mill Town Historical Preservation Society

Three Dollar Bill Cinema

Tieton Arts & Humanities

Touchet Valley Arts Council dba Liberty Theater

University Beyond Bars

Wa Na Wari

Washington Museum Association

Washington State Historical Society

Washington State Jewish Historical Society

Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center

Westport South Beach Historical Society

Whatcom Literacy Council

Whatcom Museum Foundation

White Bluffs Quilt Museum

White River Valley Museum and Mary Olson Farm

Whiteswan Environmental

Window Seat Media

Wing Luke Asian Museum

Word Travels: Bringing Immigrant and Refugee Stories to the Community

Write Place

Yakima Valley Museum

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