By Angela Bernhardt, Director of Major Gifts

Reading back a grant application submitted in March seems like a lifetime ago. 

Katie Pease, our Community Life Coordinator, had been planning a project idea with multidisciplinary artist Xochi de la Luna, and Cow Tipping Press, a nonprofit that teaches and publishes writing by people with developmental disabilities. The goal was to offer two sessions of literary and performance arts classes for individuals supported by Hammer Residences, culminating in two published books and collaborative staged performances of the published pieces.  The project, “Uncommon Connections: Neurodivergent Story and Performance” would offer a unique artistic opportunity.

There was discussion about whether to acknowledge COVID-19 in the grant, due the end of March. This virus was something we knew very little about. Employees like me who work in Hammer’s central office were told to grab their laptops and whatever they needed to do their work, and start working from home as of March 16, 2020. I thought this arrangement would be just for a day or two, maybe a week – tops.

Submitting the grant from my kitchen table, presented an issue – do we even acknowledge COVID? In the end, we decided to include one sentence, “At this point, we are anticipating the end of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and that we will be able to proceed as planned with the first session to be October 2020 to December 2020.”

Fast forward to June. I’m still working from my kitchen table, and we were just notified that our MRAC grant was approved!

Katie Pease quickly gathered the project partners together via Zoom to discuss how to adapt the programming they had spent months developing, and five rounds of grant revisions perfecting. They developed a new plan to convert the project into a virtual format for the safety of all involved. Their innovation and flexibility will create a meaningful and valuable artistic experience for the participants. This is just one of many examples of how we are all learning to pivot.

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Uncommon Connections: Neurodivergent Story and Performance” is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC), thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.