COVID-19 and the Arts in Wisconsin



Applications are due from Wisconsin Arts Organizations on May 7, 2020. Click here​ for more information.​


While we are not health professionals here at the Wisconsin Arts Board, we are fortunate to have a strong team of health professionals at the WI Department of Health Services (DHS).  Their webpage on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) contains the latest information on the disease and what we can do to stop its progress.​

Scroll down on this page to find: 

Direction from Governor Evers

Guide to Governmental Relief for Arts Organizations and Individual Artists:  Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans - Recent News (April 3 is the day for nonprofits to apply! April 10 for artists!)

Emergency Funds for Artists, Creative Entrepreneurs, and Arts Organizations 

Arts-Specific Resources for Arts Organizations and Their Constituents
     Webinars:  Upcoming and Archived

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation's Guide for Main Street and other Businesses Navigating COVID-19

Excerpts from the Wisconsin Arts News related to COVID-19 and the arts

Creative Responses from WI's Creative Sector! 

WI's Arts Organizations Alert Their Audiences, Patrons, and Public

Resources for Staying Connected

If Your WAB-Funded Project Happens During COVID-19 Time

Working Together on a Community Level


On May 13, 2020, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin issued a decision declaring Emergency Order #28 Safer at Home Order (“Safer at Home”) “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable.” The Safer at Home Order was issued by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee, Andrea Palm, and had extended Wisconsin’s Order through May 26, 2020. In its decision, the Court ordered that “there can be no criminal penalties for violations of [the] order.”

The result is that, at this time, in areas where no local government order is effective, the Supreme Court’s decision means businesses may open. However, the best practice for businesses choosing to open is to adhere to the Wisconsin Economic Development Commission’s Reopening Guidelines, which compile industry-specific advice for protecting the health and safety of employees and the public.

Additional information is available here​

Gov. Evers Directs Department of Health Services to Extend Wisconsin's Safer at Home Order

On April 16, Govenor Tony Evers directed Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to extend the Safer at Home order from April 24, 2020 to 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 26, 2020, or until a superseding order is issued. The order implements some new measures to ensure safety and support the progress made in containing COVID-19, but also allows certain activities to start up again. The order is available here.

Gov. Evers Directs WI's Department of Health Services to Issue a Safer At Home Order

On March 24, Governor Tony Evers directed DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm to issue a Safter at Home order that prohibits all nonessential travel, with some excetions as clarified and defined in the order.  The order is available here.  The order became effective at 8 am on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 and will remain in effect until 8 am on Friday, April 24, 2020, or until a superseding order is issued​.

Gov. Evers Directs WI's Department of Health Services to Prohibit Mass Gatherings of 10 People or More

Governor Tony Evers and Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary-designee Andrea Palm ordered a statewide moratorium on mass gatherings of 10 people or more to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, effective at 5:00pm on Tuesday, March 17th. This order applies to all public and private mass gatherings.  Read more

Gov. Evers: Declares public health emergency due to COVID-19

On March 12, Governor Tony Evers declared a public health emergency in response to new cases of COVID-19, directing the Department of Health Services (DHS) to use all the resources necessary to respond to and contain the outbreak.  One of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recommendations is “… that all non-essential gatherings of 250 or more people be cancelled or postponed statewide to help protect Wisconsinites from the spread of COVID-19, particularly those who are most vulnerable to infection and severe disease."  At this point, it is a recommendation. Read more.


Applications are now being accepted for the many forms of relief associated with the historic $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that was signed into law on March 27, 2020 and other federal relief programs.

Important (and urgent) advice from our colleagues at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals and at 20 Degrees:

  • The SBA resumed accepting Paycheck Protection Program applications from participating lenders on Monday, April 27, 2020 at 9:30am CST. The SBA is encouraging all approved lenders to process loan applications previously submitted by eligible borrowers and disburse funds expeditiously.​
    • Talk to a lender who already knows you. They need to be approved to do 7a loans in order to process this loan. Here is a list of the top most active 100 SBA lenders. As you are applying for these new loans, be sure to read current loan documents and keep in touch with current lenders. 
    SBDC Network
    ​13 offices statewide
    ​Find local contacts & loan assistance
    WI Women's Business Initiative Corp.
    ​Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha, Appleton, Green Bay, La Crosse​

    En Espanol: Lily Alvarado, 
    ​Western WI Women's Business Center

    Independence, Eau Claire - Karen Briggs

    Find mentors:  




    Eau Claire

    Fox Cities (Appleton)

    Green Bay



    Veterans Business Outreach Center
    ​Statewide - Lisa Taylor

    ​Have your different scenarios ready for cost containment and new revenue generation. Here is the 20 Degrees Nonprofit COVID-19 toolkit that can help with that.

    We encourage you visit APAP's COVID-19 government relief page to understand the different relief programs that are available and for which you are eligible.

    Slides from the Wisconsin Arts Board and Arts Wisconsin April 13, 2020 Resource Session: "WI's Creative Sector Navigates the New SBA Programs" are available here. The U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) Public Affairs Specialist for Wisconsin, Shirah Rachel Apple, talks with Wisconsin's creative sector about navigating the SBA's new loan and debt relief resources.

    Statement from Mary Anne Carter, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts on the Passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act - National Endowment for the Arts


    Artists/Creative Entrepreneurs/Individual Arts Administrators: ​​

    • Artist Relief​ will distribute $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies​. A coalition of national arts grantmakers have come together to create this emergency initiative to offer financial and informational resources to artists across the United States. 
    • The NDN Collective’s COVID-19 Response Project is designed to provide rapid response resources to Indigenous communities. The Artist and Entrepreneur Fund will provide grants of up to $5,000 to ease these current hardships in this time of economic uncertainty. Deadline: May 29
    • ​Milwaukee Artist Resource Network announces the MARN COVID-19 Relief Fund​. All active MARN members, who contribute on any level to our creative economy, are encouraged to apply for this one-time, unrestricted $250 micro-grant.
    • ​​The Foundation for Contemporary Arts has created a temporary fund to meet the needs of experimental artists who have been impacted by the economic fallout from postponed or canceled performances and exhibitions.

    Arts Organizations:

    • Wisconsin Humanities Council (WHC) announces CARES Relief Grant. WHC is providing rapid-response funding to nonprofit humanities and cultural organizations that are facing financial hardship resulting from the COVID-19 coronavirus.​​​ Deadline: ​May 15​​
    ​​​*Check back often - this dynamic situation is changing every day.​


    Click on the header above to access the list of resources we have compiled (in our daily Arts News​ service since January, and now here) to help with all of this.​



    May 19, 2020

    Reopening the Performing Arts: Event Safety in the COVID-19 Era - Association of Performing Arts Professionals - 2:00pm


    ​Wisconsin Arts Board and Arts Wisconsin's weekly Listening Sessions every Friday at 9:00 am.

    The N​ational Guild for Community Arts Eduction's online conversation series and workshops - schedule available here​​​​​​

    Archived Webinars: A list of recently recorded webinars of interest and use.


    With input from national and state health and industry experts and in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and regional economic development partners, WEDC has compiled a series of industry-specific documents​ to help you get back to business while taking the necessary precautions to maximize safety. Following these guidelines will help us all get Wisconsin's economy back on track.

    (Click on the header above to access additional resources related to reopening and resilience.)

    (​​Click on the header above to access those excerpts.)


    Dance: ​
    - Kanopy Dance creates new video for supporters.​

    - From the Little Writing Room over the Garage, Author Michael Perry reads​ daily.

    - WI Poet Laureate Alumnus, Max Garland, shares a poem​

    - Door Community Auditorium created a Spring Training​ program - an online series of virtual and live-streamed programs and prompts shared by the DCA and Door County Friends!  ​

    - The Oshkosh Grand Opera House “At Home" posts some great arts content

    - Lynden Sculpture Garden launches site with Virtual Tours/Education Materials​

    - Janesville Performing Arts Center's “Home movie" submission request for a “AT HOME- FILM FESTIVAL". Encouraging submissions from all areas of the state.

    - Peninsula Music Festival launches 'PlayON' Fund to assist festival musicians through COVID-19 financial crisis.​

    - The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra welcomes you to join their #coucherto social media series​ by uploading home musical performances using the #coucherto hashtag and tagging WCO. ​​

    - Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society shares its Tiny Desk Concerts​ every Tuesday and Thursday at noon.

    - Milwaukee Symphony invites us to stream an audio recording, recorded live in an empty Uihlein Hall on 3/14. As President & Executive Director Mark Niehaus and Music Director Ken-David Masur remarked, music is a balm we can turn to in times of uncertainty, and we hope it brings you comfort and relief​.​​

    - Ex Fabula​ has moved all May programming online, including upcoming Virtual StoryCircles and StorySlams.

    - Milwaukee Repertory Theater​ - Our Home to Your Home​; Playwright Essays; What the Tea; Free Art Kits; etc. 

    - WI Alliance of Community Theaters

    - Northern Sky Theatre's "​​​Promise Pass" is good forever, ​like a “Flexible-Forever-Stamp!” Promise Passes can be used for a show at the outdoor Park Amphitheater or in the indoor Gould Theater. Promise Passes also retain either venue’s highest ticket-type value, even if our ticket prices increase in the future. 

    Visual Arts and Crafts:
    - The Racine Art Museum has created an online scavenger hunt, and other ways for people to enjoy, explore, and engage with art from home. 

    - Peninsula School of Art offers several new virtual initiatives, including posting family and kid-friendly art projects on Fridays via social media (for local families, free "art-kits" will be available for pick-up at the PenArt entrance beginning at 10am on Fridays), launching weekly "Creative Challenge" prompts via social media, sharing virtual gallery tours, demonstrations, and videos for art appreciators (or e-learners) on Tuesdays, and devoting Mondays to beginners and those curious about getting started in art-making, focusing on demystifying basic art terms, tools and principles.​

    - The Trout Museum of Art launches "Made to Order​," a match-making program for art buyers and artists.​

    - Artists Helen Klebesadel and Mary Kay Neumann launched a virtual collaborative art exhibition as a part of their ongoing “The Flowers are Burning: An Art and Climate Justi​ce Project.​​” ​Klebesadel ​also created the ‘Cabin Fever Creative Community’ group on Facebook, a space for members to share resources, how-tos, creative responses and community.

    Bonus: Fun Resources from Elsewhere
    - The Kennedy Center LUNCH DOODLES​: Mo Willems invites YOU into his studio every day for his LUNCH DOODLE. 


    Click on the header to find a sampling of the messages (via email and website) that WI's arts organizations have begun to send to their patrons, partners, audience members, and community stakeholders.  We provide these as a way of helping others to shape a response to this public health issue, not to endorse any specific action.

    For those who have not yet communicated with your partners, patrons, audience members, and community stakeholders, here are a couple of sample templates that have come our way.  We share them for your consideration, without recommending either course.   ​Sample Templates​​


    (​​Click on the header above to access a compilation of tech/teaching resouces, and classes and live events.)


    If you have a WAB grant to support a program or event taking place during this time of increased concern, we will allow you to postpone and reschedule, and will if necessary extend the grant project period. Be sure to contact WAB staff via email to alert us to the changes.​


    We encourage communities to work together to organize a community response meeting to share knowledge and identify gaps. Consider inviting health officials and support services.​

    Stay informed! Assign a person on your staff or board to keep an eye on the latest developments and news. They can sign up for the Centers for Disease Control's email updates here and for the World Health Organization's email updates here.

    Stay inspired! Explore the section above entitled "Creative Responses from WI's Creative Sector!"  Check out and share articles with ideas for actions we can take.  Here are some:

            Stopping Coronavirus From Infecting the Culture of Our Community

            Connect people with assistance in finding food/paying housing bills/accessing essential services

    As we continue to watch and prepare for the coming weeks, we will be tracking local response and welcome your questions – as will our partner in the priva​te sector, Arts Wisconsin. During times like this, we must act in concert with one another and support each other locally, statewide, and nationally.

    Please be safe, protect yourself and those you interact with, and be healthy. Most importantly, thank you, as always, for all the extraordinary things you do eve​ry day.

    ​​- The Board and Staff of the Wisconsin Arts Board​, Updated 5/14/2020