On November 9, the Oklahoma Arts Council recognized Red Dirt Relief Fund as a recipient of The Community Service Award among 14 individuals and three organizations that were honored for their contributions to the arts during the 44th Oklahoma Governor’s Arts Awards. During the ceremony, Joy Harjo, three-time US Poet Laureate, was designated an Oklahoma Cultural Treasure, and Broken Arrow’s Kristin Chenoweth was recognized as an Oklahoma Cultural Ambassador.
According to Executive Director Katie Dale, “In the first 8 years, Red Dirt Relief Fund (RDRF) helped 87 grantees total. In the past 18 months due to COVID-19, that number has grown to 852. We had no idea this little grassroots nonprofit would become so vital to the survival of individual music professionals in Oklahoma, but this Governor’s Arts Award is validation that Oklahomans value the talent, energy and hard work music people pour into creating art in our state. We are so grateful to the Oklahoma Arts Council and Governor Stitt for recognizing this work, but more importantly the individuals we serve, the donors who support us and the fans who help hold up the music industry through it all.”
For eight years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, RDRF established itself as a vital source of critical assistance for individuals working in Oklahoma’s music industry. Since 2012, RDRF has granted more than a half million dollars to more than 850 Oklahomans. Through its grant funding activities, RDRF has come to the aid of people recovering from accidents, cancer treatment, medical emergencies, natural disasters, and other circumstances. Available to residents involved in the creation, production, promotion, and other jobs directly tied to the state’s music industry, RDRF grants historically covered living expenses and medical bills. Since spring 2020, as music venues across Oklahoma have been closed or limited in operations, the work of RDRF has taken on new significance. In March 2020, as the pandemic abruptly emerged, RDRF immediately shifted to providing emergency aid for those impacted by cancelled and postponed shows. It then began convening a task force of state music industry leaders to disseminate vital information about COVID-19 relief programs. To date during the pandemic, RDRF has raised and delivered funding totaling several times its normal annual budget.
“The efforts of our Governor’s Arts Awards honorees are why the arts continue to inspire hope and resilience for Oklahomans during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Oklahoma Arts Council Executive Director Amber Sharples said. “Their commitments reflect the investment necessary to ensure the arts endure to meet the important needs in our state. We look forward to celebrating their steadfast devotion to their communities through their efforts in the arts.”
For more information or to support the cause, visit www.reddirtrelieffund.org.