River Region Arts & Humanities Council offering $1K grants to local entities

Published 12:12 am Saturday, October 21, 2017

LAPLACE — Since its inception in 1997, the River Region Arts & Humanities Council has awarded more than $407,000 to enhance local culture through promotion of the arts in the River Parishes.

RRAHC is calling for 2018 grant applications through the end of October in order to continue advocating for arts programs in the community.

Schools, theater groups, art guilds and non-profit organizations involved in arts and humanities projects are eligible to receive up to $1,000 per application. All applications must be postmarked and received by the 2018 grants committee by Oct. 31.

Mary Hotard Becnel, president of RRAHC, was one of the founding members of the non-profit organization. Over the years, she’s witnessed the immense impact the grants have had on education, plantations, festivals and drama groups.

Schools in particular have benefitted from the grants, she said, because there is never enough funding for the arts.

“Teachers and students are very appreciative,” Becnel said. “Everyone looks forward to receiving the grants. They count on this money, and a lot of people come forward with the same projects each year that they couldn’t continue funding without us.”

Last year, RRAHC awarded 33 grants and sponsorships totaling $17,944.46, funding projects such as Riverside Academy’s Ancient Egyptian Arts Festival, St. John Theatre’s Black History Month program and East St. John High School’s “Acts of God” talented theater production.

ESJH talented theater teacher Garrett Prejean said the grant allowed the school to secure props, costumes and lighting design for the production.

“We have a zero dollar budget,” Prejean said. “We share a classroom with the art and music teachers. We would’ve put on the show either way, but the grant was a huge, huge help in providing resources to help us have a good production, especially since it was a prop-heavy show.”

“Acts of God” explored the connections between teens from different backgrounds united by the shared experience of being devastated by a tornado, and Prejean believes the same sense of unity is reflected in school theater programs.

“I think it’s very important these programs stay around because this is where the future is going,” Prejean said. “It’s a collaborative, all-inclusive environment and a safe place for all races and sexes. It teaches kids empathy and to have an open heart to everyone.”

Last year was Prejean’s first time applying for a RRAHC grant, though he plans on applying again this year in hopes of funding upcoming projects.

Despite RRAHC’s success, Becnel is concerned declining community interest will make it increasingly difficult to secure grant money.

“Sponsorships dwindle each year, and it becomes harder and harder to raise money through our yearly fundraiser,” Becnel said.

“I would love to see more interest and have the younger generation get involved because it would hurt the community if we are no longer able to do this.”

As a former St. John Parish judge, Becnel has seen troubled youth in the community benefit from creative outlets, and she said her greatest hope is for children to continue to be exposed to art.

“There are so many talented kids in our area who need this outlet,” Becnel said. “Without funding, children will never be exposed to art when it could save them.”

Individuals, families and businesses can support RRAHC’s efforts by becoming members, according to Becnel. Membership fees for individuals are $35, and small businesses may join for $100. Student and senior prices and sponsorships are also available.

“People sometimes think art is above them, something they can’t understand, but it’s important to realize art surrounds you everywhere,” Becnel said. “It’s in writing and drawings and your granddaughter’s music.

“If people realized art is everywhere, I think we would have more interest. We encourage people to join and take part.”

Grant applications are available online at rrahc.org, by mail through RRAHC, P.O. Box 1411 LaPlace, Louisiana, 70069-1411 or by calling 2018 grant committee member Harold Flynn Jr. at 985-651-9090.

For more information about or to download a membership application, visit rrahc.org.