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Utah Cultural, Arts Venues To Receive Emergency Grant Funding From CARES Act

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Utah legislators devoted millions of dollars this week to cultural-type businesses who had to close during the coronavirus pandemic. A couple of those businesses said this extra money from the CARES Act will help them get through.

“What is that?” has become a popular question for travelers along I-15 in Draper. The answer — it’s the U2 tour stage from a few years ago, but now, it’s one of the centerpieces of the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.

“It’s super exciting. We love having the public here,” said Layne Pitcher, communications director for the aquarium.

Pitcher said plans for it include exhibits, educational classrooms, and public shows like the light show that began Saturday night.

“Just music going and lights flashing,” said Pitcher. “People can come out with a blanket, eat some food from the food trucks, and just have a good time.”

Part of being able to do these shows is because of an emergency grant from the Federal CARES Act program.

A total of $9 million from the CARES Act was distributed by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums to cultural-type organizations impacted because of coronavirus shutdowns.

“It allows us to do events we would not be able to do without it,” said Pitcher. “When we closed, you don’t have guests coming into the aquarium. That is a large part of what supports our efforts here.”

Utah’s Hogle Zoo is one of those organizations getting money.

It was closed for 47 days during what is normally their busiest time of the year.

“Overall, we’re going to shrink our operating budget by about 40% this year,” said Hogle Zoo CEO and President, Steve Burns. “Last year, we had over a million people. This year, we’ll probably have 500,000.”

Getting a piece of the grant will help Hogle Zoo with operating expenses and staffing.

It’s to try and make up for some of the losses.

“We’re getting about $700,000,” said Burns. “Thanks to that funding, we’re going to have our popular Zoo Lights event, where it will be free to the public. Normally, we charge for people to come to that, but this year it’ll be free.”

Part of the requirement to get funding is to hold an event or activity that will increase visitors and tourism.

During the legislative special session last week, an additional $7.5 million for grants was approved by legislators.

It means more cultural and arts-type places will get funding.

The venues getting emergency funding are: Ballet West, Broadway Media, Dan Farr Productions/Fan X, Hale Centre Theatre, Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, MagicSpace Entertainment, Maverik Center, Natural History Museum of Utah, Red Butte Garden, Sundance Institute, Thanksgiving Point, Tuacahn Center for the Arts, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, and Utah Shakespeare Festival, and the Utah Symphony/Opera.

“It’s one of the things that makes this community so great, is we’ve got this nice set of museums and cultural attractions that people value so much,” said Burns.

Many venues have re-opened with safety precautions such as sanitizing stations, mask requirements, and less people allowed into venues at a time for social distancing.

Some say things are starting to improve, but everyone knows it’ll take time, and a little help, to fully recover.

“We all hope things continue to go in a positive direction,” said Pitcher.

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