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GAP Grant Impact Stories

A Collective Voice for the Arts | Annapolis Arts Alliance

The Annapolis Arts Alliance began in 2003 when then-Mayor Ellen Moyer invited a diverse group of local artists and arts patrons to join forces. Since then, the AAA has attained nonprofit status, and continues to provide a forum for members to network, collaborate, polish creative skills, and showcase the rich artistic life of Greater Annapolis. The now 160-member AAA fulfills its mission by hosting annual juried art exhibitions, artist networking and information sharing events, and an annual sketch crawl; organizing seasonal “pop-up” retail stores to show and sell original work by local artists; showcasing member artists who participate in Plein Air events; and participating in various local and regional arts and music festivals.

In 2020, with all community events cancelled due to COVID-19, AAA needed to find new ways to support local artists throughout this unprecedented situation. They took a bold step and opened a year-round space at Gallery 57 West, to provide members with an opportunity to show and sell their work. In creating this opportunity, AAA established an e-commerce site and ensured that the space complied with public health guidelines. In this process, AAA incurred significant expenses. The number of artists allowed to exhibit in the space was reduced by 15%. Doors were kept open to maximize air circulation, increasing heating bills. Special air filters, PPE, and cleaning supplies. All this while sales revenue was greatly reduced due to cancelled or modified events, including Midnight Madness. There was no way AAA could pass on these increased costs to the artists renting space.

Fortunately, the Arts Alliance was able to offset these revenue shortfalls with the help of the Anne Arundel County GAP Grant. This funding also enabled the group to do what artists do best – innovate and create! AAA purchased audio and visual equipment and upgraded their website, enabling them to increase their virtual presence and keep in touch with the community through virtual information sessions. In each of these presentations, the artists demonstrate the creative process and discuss their artistic inspiration; sessions are shared via Facebook Live events and YouTube. Reception has been so positive that these sessions will continue through 2021, with two or three presentations scheduled each month.

GAP funding also enabled AAA to subsidize exhibit space for two very special groups of artists at Gallery 57 West. The first provides showcase opportunities for Anne Arundel County students aged 14-18. The second is for students from GiGi’s Playhouse, which offers foundational learning opportunities, at no cost, for individuals with Down Syndrome, their families, and the community. GiGi’s programming is informed by research that shows that individuals with Down syndrome tend to be “visual learners” and benefit from kinesthetic (movement) and auditory input (music, song) when learning. Elevating the work of these students, and that of all our local artists is the cornerstone of the Annapolis Arts Alliance’s mission – to provide one collective voice for anyone interested in or touched by arts.

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Keep the Art Flowing | Jordan Sokel

If you enjoyed our gala ARTS virtually last month, then you were treated to a performance by local musician-songwriter Jordan Sokel. For the last seven years, Jordan has been the owner-operator of the business/musical band, Pressing Strings. He writes all of the music for the band, seeks out and books performances, runs the online sites, and maintains sole financial responsibility for the group.

In normal times, Jordan makes his living through 1) musical performances/gigs, 2) online music sales/streaming fees, and 3) band merchandise, typically sold at live shows. All three of these revenue sources took a direct hit during the pandemic, between March and July 2020, every gig was cancelled. To immediately try to offset this loss, Jordan modified his approach and began to focus on live-streaming performances for donations. In July, when some places opened back up and began contracting live music again, it was for less pay due to attendance restrictions. Instead of playing four or five gigs a week, Pressing Strings was down to one to three, for less pay.

With winter looming and the gigs still not there, Jordan applied for and received an Anne Arundel County GAP Independent Artist grant to help make ends meet. It provided some much-needed assistance to cover his family’s basic financial needs including mortgage and bills. But after also invested some of this funding in-home recording software, to keep the art flowing despite restrictions. Jordan tells us the new equipment has opened doors for Pressing Strings, and, “Resulted directly in my band being signed to a booking agency. I use this same equipment to play shows for company Zoom calls/online gigs.”

To connect and learn more about Jordan Sokel, visit

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The COVID-19 Relief Grants for the Arts Program (GAP) funding made possible by County Executive Steuart Pittman and the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. 


Click here for information regarding the Anne Arundel County GAP Grant for Independent Artists 

Click here for information regarding the Anne Arundel County GAP Grant for Arts Organizations


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