Olympia City Council approves implementation of voter-approved Cultural Access Program


The Olympia City Council gave a go-signal to implement the plans for the Cultural Access Program on Tuesday.

The initiative will provide public funding to nonprofit organizations offering arts, sciences, heritage, and cultural programs and experiences for the public.

With the city council's approval, Inspire Olympia Program Manager Marygrace Goddu announced they would begin accepting applications in January and will allow a two-month window for submission until mid-March.

The applications will be evaluated and scored in April, May, and June. The Cultural Access Advisory Board will develop funding recommendations to be presented to the city council for approval.

Cultural Access Program funding structure
Cultural Access Program funding structure

Goddu said the program aims to be fully operational by July 1. Immediate program evaluation will commence, followed by a continuous improvement cycle to refine and enhance the program.

At the city council meeting, Goddu presented the Cultural Access Advisory Board's recommendations for implementation.

Goddu said the advisory board developed funding goals that would be the basis for evaluating program proposals received from the community.

The funding goals are:

  • Support public arts, culture, heritage, and science programs.
  • Increase access to these programs and reduce barriers to participation, especially for historically underserved populations.
  • Support programming by and for culturally or ethnically specific communities and underrepresented groups.
  • Expand access to youth education programs in arts, culture, heritage, and science.
  • Support the sustainability of and collaboration among cultural sector organizations.

Funding structure

Funding structure for the Cultural Access Program
Funding structure for the Cultural Access Program

Inspire Olympia is funded by a sales tax of 1/10 of 1%, effective for seven years.

Goddu said they expect to collect $3 million for the program based on current revenue projections. She said 80% of the funds will be divided into two categories of competitive grant funding – comprehensive organization support and impact fund. Up to 10% of the Cultural Access funds will be available to cover the cost of field trips, including transportation costs for Olympia school district field trips. The remaining 10% will cover program administration.

Goddu provided a more detailed overview of the funding categories, expressing that the advisory board has crafted a program that prioritizes accessibility, flexibility, and accountability while ensuring equity remains at the forefront.

Comprehensive organizational support – is designed to strengthen and sustain existing organizations. This category will generally fit larger organizations with established programs that run year-round. Organizations can request 15% of their annual program budget up to a maximum of $75,000 a year and can enter into a two-year contract.

Goddu said they expect to award around 20 programs in this category.

Impact funding – is designed to support newer and smaller organizations. It allows opportunities for not nonprofits to participate if they have sponsorship from a registered nonprofit. It allows groups to propose similar events, year-round programs, or a series of events.

Goddu told the councilmembers that they expect to see about 40 awards in this category. Organizations can request up to $30,000.

 "In both categories, organizations can propose programs for youth and programs for in-classroom experiences. Those proposals for in-classrooms will require collaboration with the Olympia School District (OSD)," Goddu added.


The Olympia City Council approved a resolution to implement Cultural Access Program plans on Tuesday, August 22, 2023.
The Olympia City Council approved a resolution to implement Cultural Access Program plans on Tuesday, August 22, 2023.

The Cultural Access program, Goddu said, incorporated equity strategies to ensure fairness in the awards process. The evaluation process will be numerically scored to minimize or eliminate implicit bias in the review process. Applicants will also be evaluated based on their commitment to equity and access to their internal practices and external work.

The implementation schedule for the program includes up to four months of public outreach to ensure widespread awareness and participation in the program.

To be eligible for the program, cultural organizations must be registered nonprofits primarily focusing on advancing or promoting arts, heritage, science, or culture. Additionally, they must be located in Olympia or provide most of their programming here.