Cultural Kitchens: Nurturing organic creative expression

by Maria Rosario Jackson (bio), senior research associate, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, Urban Institute

In recent conferences that have dealt with the topic of equity like this year’s Grantmakers in the Arts Conference and the PolicyLink Equity Summit in Detroit, I confirmed that in my many years of research on arts and culture in communities I have become convinced of at least two things. First, that all people have the capacity to be creative and the need for aesthetic expression. And second, that strategies to improve quality of life and opportunity in low-income and marginalized communities are inherently incomplete without provisions for people’s cultural and artistic realization. When I think about why as an urban planner concerned primarily with low and moderate income communities of color, I have chosen to focus on arts and culture, I often reflect on the fact that, historically, in strategies to subjugate or colonize communities, one of the first things that is taken away is freedom of creative expression and the practice of organic art forms. If removal of organic creative expression and art is crucial to keep people down, then isn’t provision of opportunities for organic creative expression and art crucial to lifting people up? The answer is yes.

But what does cultural and artistic realization in low-income and marginalized communities require? What are the artistic and cultural qualities and amenities that a community must have if it is to be a viable place to live and thrive? These are crucial questions that must be answered in any efforts to incorporate arts and culture into equitable development strategies. They are questions that community residents, leaders, policymakers, urban planners and funders alike must address seriously.

In my opinion, a key quality of a community that offers its residents opportunity for socio-economic advancement is the awareness among community residents and leaders that creativity and the capacity for the creation of art are assets that people in communities already possess. Recognition that these assets are building blocks for activity that can lead to individual and collective uplift is important too. The active presence of artists and tradition bearers—musicians, dancers and other performing artists, visual and media artists, writers, poets, storytellers, culinary artists, dedicated crafts people and others—who can inspire imagination, passion and excellence is also a key element. These leaders help people take responsibility for their own creativity and critical reflection and they also help cultivate the community’s creative pulse. Implicit in that is also the presence of supports for artists and tradition bearers who play this important role. The integration of arts and culture, especially the arts and culture of the community in question, into other policy areas and dimensions of community life is another critical feature. We must ask and address, are there art programs in schools? Do schools employ teaching artists? Do health programs consider arts and cultural participation as essential to wellness? Are aesthetic factors a significant aspect of physical development and efforts to change the built environment?

Another extremely crucial element is the presence of what I like to call “cultural kitchens”—spaces and organizations that allow for cultural self-determination. These are places where members of geographic communities or communities of interest gather to be generative—to use their imagination, to make and experience art that nourishes, provokes and inspires. They are places where creative expressions of community history, concerns, accomplishments and aspirations are possible and encouraged. These are places that foster both tradition and innovation and they are places where people hash out who they are, what they care about and how they want to be understood in the broader context of society. They take many forms. They can be art centers, community based organizations, ethnic specific cultural organizations, mutual aid societies and, sometimes, churches and even commercial entities. What they have in common is that they are beacons for collective creative activity. They are places where artists and tradition bearers share their talents and encourage others to do so as well. They are the mechanisms that help communities both mend severed roots and sew new seeds. And they are places that have impact far beyond what happens inside of them. They help make authentic diversity and democracy possible and they are crucial to a more equitable and just society.

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Rewarding Sustained Attention

by Barbara Schaffer Bacon (bio), co-director, Animating Democracy, Americans for the Arts

“Great art rewards sustained attention.” This simple theory comes from philosopher Marcia Muelder Eaton, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. In my personal experience, it is true. Eaton has been considering art and writing about aesthetics for a few decades. Her early publications get to the heart of this definition but a later book, Merit, Aesthetic and Ethical (Oxford Press 2001) offers an inclusive concept of art, aesthetics, and value that is very relevant to the themes of Fusing Arts Culture and Social Change. In that book, Eaton suggests that “formalists in the world of aesthetics ignore the roles that artworks play in the life of community and conversely, ignore the ways in which communities determine the very nature of what counts as artistic or aesthetic experiences that exist within them.” I recommend her writings in general and this book specifically.

I share Eaton’s work here because my enthusiasm for the conversation raised by Fusing Arts Culture and Social Change is not to call out the major institutions and question whether they deserve support but rather to encourage sustained attention for small, mid-sized and community based arts groups that are rooted in communities, neighborhoods, ethnic and tribal traditions. Americans for the Arts has championed these groups through support for local and community arts development, advocacy for public sector arts support, and through Animating Democracy, by informing, promoting and inspiring civic engagement though the arts.

It has been our privilege to look deeply at practice and observe the development and impact over time of organizations that offer artistic excellence and innovation, astute leadership connected to community needs, and important institutional and engagement models for the field. The crucial contributions of this segment of organizations in the cultural ecosystem and toward achieving healthy communities and a healthy democracy are evident despite chronic undercapitalization.

Ron Chew’s Community-based Arts Organizations: A new Center of Gravity (.pdf, 1.5Mb) commissioned by Animating Democracy in 2009 and cited in Fusing Arts Culture and Social Change takes a close look at some exemplary groups that “have emerged at the center of this more expansive vision of the arts.” Published in 2009, the paper sparked discussion in the funding community but it is even more relevant in light of the aspirations expressed by this new report. Groups like East Bay Center for the Performing Arts (Richmond, CA), National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago), Sojourn Theatre (Portland, OR), The Wing Luke Asian Museum (Seattle), Diaspora Vibe Gallery (Miami) Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (Old Town, ME) are recognized for artistic achievement. They garner community support and recognition, complete impressive capital projects, and have established themselves as valued community institutions in a matter of only 30-35 years. Their portraits and Ron’s insights illustrate what an “inclusive and dynamic cultural sector” can look like and how it can achieve both excellence in art and “through the arts, a more equitable, fair and democratic world.”

There are many other such groups in communities across the country that should be noticed and nourished with sustained attention and resources. They are not without flaws and challenges but there is art, not only in their unique forms and the aesthetics of their artistic products, but in their operations and community engagement as well. The closer you look, the more you discover, the more you appreciate. Your sustained attention will be rewarded.

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When Is It Actually Arts and Culture?

by Justin Laing (bio), program officer, Arts & Culture Program, The Heinz Endowments

For me, one of the most useful elements of NCRP’s Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change was the section titled “A Funding Typology and Pathways to Change” (p. 30). The typology is organized as a series of questions to provoke grantmakers to reflect on their grantmaking across five areas: Sustaining the Canon, Nurturing the New, Arts Education, Art-Based Community Development and Art-Based Economic Development. What I like is that it provided a structure to think about questions of diversity and inclusion across our entire portfolio, and this was a step we had not yet taken. However, with the tool in hand, it was easier respond to a request from my boss, Janet Sarbaugh, to think about a more general diversity framework for our grantmaking. I applied the typology as though it were a grading rubric, which in itself was a useful thought exercise, and this provided several insights. I noted that because of our work as a lead funder of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, the Advancing Black Arts Initiative and Culturally Responsive Arts Education (CRAE) we received a solid B for our work in the first three categories: Sustaining the Canon, Nurturing the New and Arts Education. Conversely, in the areas of Art-Based Community Development and Art-Based Economic Development we had grades that, while not exactly failing, would surely get us an ear beating in most households. In reflecting on the lopsided nature of our report card, I thought I saw implications for our grants programs, but it also sparked for me a possible distinction in grantmaking with an arts focus vs. grantmaking with a cultural focus.

My read of our report card says we have been intentional about disbursing money to a diverse set of organizations and communities (primarily diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, but also in sexual orientation, size and income), and that we are doing some thinking about equitable education at the system level. However, what is it about community and economic development that has caused us to come up short on the typology? An obvious takeaway is that as a foundation program area we will need to decide whether we want to respond to or encourage Pittsburgh’s arts community to respond to larger community/economic issues such as displacement, jobs or violence. But I also believe it points out that the typology may have embedded within it two levels of grantmaking when the focus is social change. Level 1– equitable support for artists to enable them to perform and produce; and Level 2– support for equitable community outcomes. In other words, grantmaking in the areas of Sustaining the Canon & Nurturing the New supports the activities of performance, production, grantmaking that is more typical for arts and culture philanthropy. On the other hand, community and economic development are much more about providing support for a specific change being sought in the community. In this sense the first two areas of the typology are focused on artistic equity and the final two are more about cultural equity in a larger sense i.e. history, spirituality/ethics, social organization, politics, economics, ethos and art or aestheticsi. Arts education grantmaking then is a bridge between arts equity and cultural equity.

All of this then suggested to me that an addition should be made to the typology to help focus on impact, so I added a column for indicators of change. The current typology does an excellent job of asking funders to consider how we are allocating our budgets. This is a critical step and could point us to the next question: “What broad changes do ‘marginalized communities’ want to see for themselves?” To help our foundations consider the questions raised by the NCRP’s recommendations as to what constitutes a fair share, we could move into related discussions of how we move along a continuum of artistic equity to defining and instigating broader efforts of cultural equity; the kind of approach I heard at GIA’s social justice pre-conference during the discussion of the CultureStrike work being done in Tucson, AZ.


i   Karenga, Maulana. 1987. Introduction to Black Studies, 4th edition. Los Angeles: Kawaida Publications.

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Who is Being Marginalized and Why?

by Judi Jennings (bio), executive director, Kentucky Foundation for Women

Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change is a wake up call to our field. The report shows that only 10% of grants of $10,000 or more given by private foundations with a primary or secondary purpose of supporting arts and culture benefit underserved communities. The report identifies eleven such underserved communities, including ALANA (African Americans, Latino, Asian-Americans and Native Americans), low income, rural, women and girls.

Do private foundations need to be concerned about equity in grantmaking? As a director of a private foundation, I say yes. The private foundation where I work, like all others in the US, exists because of a federal tax status allowing us to retain the bulk of our funds as long as we pay out 5% of our earnings each year. To me, this privileged federal tax status means private foundations have a responsibility to serve the public equitably.

Many private foundations are already seeking greater equity in their arts and cultural funding. These funders are also asking hard questions. “Let’s talk about who benefits” from current grantmaking practices, Maurine Knighton, Director of the Arts and Culture Program at Nathan Cummings Foundation, pointed out in a recent conversation. I agree. When private foundations ask themselves who benefits, the conversation shifts from identifying which groups are marginalized to thinking about who is doing the marginalizing and why.

Before I go further, I need to say that, in my opinion, lumping together all the underserved people and calling them marginalized is not the best way to approach equity. This is not about being politically correct. It’s about being effective.

Take, for example, the seemingly simple category rural. See Erik Takeshita’s recent blog about a rural roundtable in New Mexico. As he shows, place is a powerful concept for many rural people, but rural people live and create culture in many different ways in different places.

Or consider The Art of the Rural. This site “works to gather a variety of perspectives on the state of rural arts and culture in American life, humbly seeking to bring a variety of arts organizations, artists and media outlets into conversation.” Even a quick review of the posts reveals the wide range of issues and diversity of rural life today.

Fortunately for funders seeking greater equity, Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change presents solid tips for “Making Change Happen.” A helpful appendix summarizes important points in the recent bestseller, Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard, by brothers, Chip and Dan Heath. Based on the work of these young social entrepreneurs, the report lays out concrete and effective ways for arts and cultural grantmakers to move toward greater equity, including:

  • Gather information and discuss the social, educational, economic and political inequalities in the communities of your grantmaking focus;
  • Meet people from these communities, make site visits, invite presentations at board meetings;
  • Add advisors, panelists, staff and board members who represent or are knowledgeable about these communities;
  • Take cultural literacy/cultural competency training.

These tips also stress the importance of understanding who benefits from current grantmaking. One point advises grantmakers to “candidly examine the demographic profile and relative need of the people who are benefiting from your current grants.” Understanding and naming those who are benefiting is essential to understanding who is being marginalizing in current grantmaking practices.

Then, funders can better align grantmaking practices in specific and knowledge-based ways to create greater equity. There will be no “one size fits all” set of practices that will ensure access to all eleven groups or all underserved people. Recognizing the differences and unique aspects among communities and developing appropriate grantmaking practices for each is really what equity is all about. Funders who thinking carefully about the underserved communities they can best serve based on their missions and geographical scope can best develop respectful and successful strategies.

An article in the next issue of the GIA Reader will look at specific strategies and success stories in advancing equity. I hope many of you will want to join in developing action steps at the local, regional and national levels to address the serious imbalances in our field.

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So What’s New?

by Marta Moreno Vega (bio), president and founder, The Carribean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute; adjunct professor, arts and public policy, Tisch School for the Arts, New York University

Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy by Holly Sidford provides the data that most of us knew. Arts funding continues to disproportionately support West European institutions and continues to place the art expressions of the diversity of communities that comprise the nation at the margins. That 2 percent of the arts field receives 55 percent of the funding continues to support the discourse that communities of color and rural communities have set forth for more than 40 years. We didn’t have the exact data, but knew from the annual reports that both public and private foundations favored those organizations that focused on West European arts forms and support their patronizing attempts to diversify their programming excluding the participation of cultural experts of their cultures.

Important for the field is that what we knew is now documented. What the report provides is the platform for change. How this will happen continues to be the challenge. At the center of this inequitable reality is that the organizations that reflect the creative excellence of their communities are at risk of surviving the legacy of underfunding and the present economic crisis. Community cultural organizations are closing or are near to closing their doors and there is little reaction. What to do?

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A Special Opportunity for Arts and Culture Funders to Advance Democracy

by Aaron Dorfman (bio), executive director, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of attention Fusing Art, Culture and Social Change, NCRP’s most recent report, has generated. More than 200 media outlets have run stories referencing the report, which far exceeds the amount of coverage we’ve received for other reports in our High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy series.

Why is this work generating so much discussion? Is it because the report is so well written? Certainly Holly Sidford penned a compelling piece. Yet, many well-argued essays generate little attention. Is it because Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) has done such tremendous work in its role as discussion-promoter-in-chief for arts funders? They surely have gone beyond the call of duty, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Is it because these issues are new? Hardly. During a session at this year’s GIA conference, one funder lamented that we have been discussing equity in arts funding for 40 years and little has changed.

I think a noteworthy explanation for the sustained interest is that release of the report coincided with the rising Occupy Wall Street movement and a growing concern nationally with issues of equity and fairness. With economic justice and democracy front and center on the national zeitgeist, perhaps our report caught on to something that already is part of the national consciousness and public discourse.

There’s an important connection here that can point us towards where I think the discussion needs to go next. Thus far, coverage of the report has centered primarily on the question of who benefits from arts philanthropy, which is an important question and certainly one that we hoped would gain traction. In addition to continued dialogue and action about who benefits, I hope we see more discussion about how arts philanthropy can contribute more robustly to our democracy and to the creation of a more fair and equitable world.

Now is a moment in time when real social change seems possible (in spite of the inability of Congress to take meaningful action). The Occupy movement has given many people an opportunity to express their anger and put forward a vision of a different and better world. What can arts funders do to build on the energy of this moment? What else can we do to better connect arts and social justice?

Our report found that only 4 percent of grants made with a primary purpose of supporting arts and culture were coded as promoting social justice. The arts, as our report notes, are an essential means by which communities and cultures find meaning and engage with the world. And the same is true for individuals – each of us uses the arts in ways that help us make sense of the world. The arts are a means for us to shape our identity, consider the future and determine what we want that future to be like.

The arts are also crucial to advancing democracy: they are a means to animating civil society, they provide us with creative methods of dealing with differences among us and, by doing so, they help us create common cause and shared purpose with society. So, starting at the individual level and moving through each layer of society, the arts are fundamentally tied to a strong and vibrant democracy. And when foundations fund arts and culture groups with an explicit purpose of advancing social justice, they are contributing to participatory parity and moving us closer to a more just and equitable world. Americans for the Arts, through its Animating Democracy Project, released recently a report with which most of you are likely familiar. NCRP and I appreciate the incredibly important work that Barbara Schaffer Bacon and Pam Korza did on Trend or Tipping Point: Arts & Social Change Grantmaking. Their comprehensive analysis of social justice grantmaking in the arts and culture community is a great resource.

I hope we continue challenging ourselves to ensure arts philanthropy benefits everyone in our society. I also hope we grow more rigorous in our exploration of how our funding for arts and culture can make a substantive contribution to social change, helping bring greater equity to our nation and the world.

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Not a Zero Sum Problem

by Jesse Rosen (bio), president & CEO, League of American Orchestras

I heartily support the NCRP report’s recommendation that philanthropic investment in the arts should benefit underserved communities and promote greater equity, opportunity, and justice. But I take issue with the suggestion that foundation support to large-budget organizations and those that perform the Western canon is, by definition, at odds with these goals. The NCRP presents this as a zero sum problem; i.e., take from one to support the other. At a time when resources to support arts and culture are strained, everyone wins when we work together to realize the capacities of cultural organizations large and small, traditional and culturally unique.

It should be noted that 90% of the League’s adult member orchestras have budgets under $5 million, therefore qualifying as “small” according to the definition used in the NCRP report. The report mentions that it does not fully take into account foundation support that broadens and diversifies access to mainstream cultural offerings, and I would suggest that this is not an insignificant omission and worth additional data collection and analysis. What we know about the full range of our membership verifies that all have the capacity to serve diverse communities and increase access to the transformative power of orchestral music.

More than 60% of the 32,000 concerts given annually by League member orchestras are specifically dedicated to education or community engagement, for a wide range of young and adult audiences. Nearly half of those concerts are presented free of charge. The increase in partnerships between orchestras and other arts organizations and nonprofit agencies that serve communities in need is most recently and clearly evidenced in the thirteen major orchestras across the country that are combining instrumental instruction with social justice in disadvantaged neighborhoods, through programs based on the transformational El Sistema music program from Venezuela. Other examples include the South Dakota Symphony’s recent tour of their state to perform on three Lakota reservations with a newly commissioned orchestral work by a Lakota composer. And orchestras in Pittsburgh, Knoxville, Madison, and St. Louis have collaborative partnerships to bring music to special-needs communities.

A number of assumptions about the music orchestras play are outdated. The good news about the canon as it is presented in the U.S. is that it has broad appeal and is growing to include more works from immigrant populations. The fact is that orchestral music is a unique art form that speaks powerfully to people of all backgrounds and income levels. Interest in live performances, recordings, and playing classical instruments has deep roots in Latin America, so it is not surprising that the League’s 2009 Audience Demographic Review analysis by McKinsey forecasts that Hispanics will increase their share of the total live classical audience from about 12% to 20% by 2018. Classical music is growing at an extraordinary rate in Asia and is now being explored in the Middle East, with composers from these regions adding influences from far beyond Western Europe. And, a new generation of composers in the U.S is creating vital and relevant orchestral music that draws upon America’s popular and vernacular genres.

America’s orchestras have all been transitioning from a single minded focus on the excellence of the performance, to paying greater attention to the value created for the community. Orchestras still have much more work to do to serve communities beyond our traditional concert audiences, which remain predominantly white; and more work to reduce barriers and spread the word that we contribute not only by delivering performances of high quality but also valuable educational and community-service programs. To succeed we must increasingly work hand in hand with those artists and diverse communities that help enrich our art form and generate new access points for audience engagement. Both large and small arts organizations should be supported, recognizing their unique capacities to serve the circumstances and needs of their communities.

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We’re All in the Struggle

by MK Wegmann, president and CEO, National Performance Network

In response to the question “Can intermediaries be more successful than institutionalized funders in supporting the organic process of art making within the communities described as marginalized by the NCRP report, as well as those engaged in art and social justice?” I’d offer an emphatic yes, since this is a role that the National Performance Network plays. Our support contributes to a network of organizations whose missions intersect with ours with a deliberate intention to be inclusive on a level playing field; we are also providing an infrastructure in New Orleans for artists and emerging organizations. We are field-generated and field-led. When intermediaries are an example of community organizing they do function well (Alternate ROOTS is another example); when they are established by funders, I’m less convinced. Bottom up versus top down.

I come from an organization that self-defines as artist-focused, and that is committed to working for cultural equity and social justice, explicit in NPN’s vision and values statement. We have long been clear about the inequities that exist in arts funding, so the report is a welcome document for the formal analysis it provides and the data to back it up. After all, the arts and culture sector mirrors the world in which we live: we are the 99%.

Few remember the critique that was brought about the inequity in the NEA’s funding patterns in the years before the culture wars (during which that critique was overshadowed by attacks from the outside). I could even posit that it was in fact the threat posed to the status quo by increasingly diverse NEA panels—particularly in Inter-Arts, Solo Theater and Visual Arts—that fueled the fires that led to the dismantling of two very important aspects of NEA funding that directly relate to the issues of inequity: individual artists fellowships and re-granting programs, both of which can only be restored by an act of Congress. This was not just a loss of funds but a cascading collapse of systems. We cannot go soft on the need for government support if we are to achieve change.

There are some troubling responses I’ve already heard to the NCRP report, including in the discussion at GIA following its presentation when the conversation soon trended toward the age-old excuse that funders would like to support “these kinds” of organizations, but they’ve found that “they” lack adequate organizational structures to receive substantial funding. There was a time in arts funding when there was a strong push from some foundations for the 2% institutions to diversify their audiences—which led to inequitable partnerships between the major institutions and culturally specific organizations, sapping their boards and audiences and giving more resources to those that already had the most resources. This is a troubling aspect of the capitalization discussion that is also taking place: it encourages giving more to fewer—investing more deeply in those organizations already being funded—at the expense of new organizations or artists coming to the table.

Now, as occurred during the Alternative Space movement in the 1970′s and 80′s, artists are forming new organizations because the existing ones are not serving them; while some parts of the country may be “overbuilt,” many places lack any kind of support system for any artists, much less those who are marginalized and working for a more just and equitable world. Now, we don’t want any more arts 501(c)(3)s. Given that this corporatized structure is the only way most foundations and government funders can give resources, is this not closing the door on the very ones who deserve the support? The ongoing inability of artists to have organizations that they control providing an infrastructure for their work is not a good trend. It does make the case for intermediaries as a vehicle to that infrastructure, and consolidation of administrative efforts is a desirable strategy, but having to work project to project without a stable environment is not a sustainable system. It begs the question of operating support.

To supplement the facts that the NCRP report provides, I think we also need a cogent and explicit defense of the absolute need for subsidy to sustain artists and cultural workers making and supporting new work in a contemporary context, whether they are working in traditional or experimental forms. This defense must include validation of organizations that artists found and run, and their ability to control assets, to be self determined in their organizational structures, and to have adequate compensation and benefits so they can dedicate their lives to their work and be contributing members of their communities.

Change must come from within the arts community, as well as from those who fund it. Mandates to the field tend to backfire, creating greater opposition to these goals. It’s not about cutting the same pie in smaller, more even slices; the power dynamic that exists between grant makers and grant seekers has to be different also. Can we be colleagues seeking the same just ends? Intermediaries can certainly be one good path to that outcome.

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Equity Strategies

by F. Javier Torres (bio), senior program officer for arts and culture, The Boston Foundation

I arrived in the world of philanthropy in 2011 after almost six years overseeing a multidisciplinary art program that is part of an affordable housing community, Villa Victoria. Those years working side-by-side with residents afforded me an amazing education and have been some of the most rewarding of my career. I attended my first Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) conference this year, where a publication commissioned by the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) highlighting funding inequities in the arts: Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change (Holly Sidford, Helicon Collaborative) was shared. Although I am grateful to see data and research that publicly reinforces the need for equitable funding in the arts, I agree with others who have said that data will not solve this issue. So how do we as arts grantmakers take action?

To answer that question, I reflected on a speech given by Dr. Manuel Pastor. Dr. Pastor shared his theory of change through a comparison of chess and jigsaw puzzles. He shared that our communities (and as a result our nation) continue to play too much chess. Chess is a black and white conversation; in chess each piece has its predetermined level of power, and in chess, we play at taking over other people’s territory. Dr. Pastor challenges us to play more jigsaw puzzles. In jigsaw puzzles there are a myriad of colors and every piece is as important as the next. True success is only found in jigsaw puzzles when each piece is in the right position and they are placed together so seamlessly that we can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. Each piece has equal importance.

I am simultaneously reminded of the significance of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the reality is that “race [still] matters.” Colorblindness does not exist in our culture. Complex structures and systems have been deployed (and continue to be built) to keep certain people in power and others “power-less.” Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change takes two steps that advance CRT objectives: 1.) It continues to unmask and expose racism in one of its many permutations and 2.) It provides practical departure questions that may lead to actionable steps.

Returning to a series of readings on CRT reminded me that “supporting civil rights” has rarely stimulated an increase in equity or access. Historically, “interest-convergence” (D. Bell, Shades of Brown: New Perspectives on School Desegregation, 1980) has proven to be a more effective tool to catalyze movements that reverse traditional racist structures. In other words, where do your needs and my needs intersect? We must make philanthropic investments in marginalized communities the “easier” choice and make clear that they will yield the greater “return on investment.” That is the basis of my recommendations to the field.

As private foundations take steps towards investing in marginalized communities, here are several points for consideration: we must listen more than we speak, remember that institutional and community relationships built on trust take time. We must understand that we do not always have the best answers, that we can ask for help, and should be held accountable for upholding equity. Finally, we must identify experts within those communities we wish to engage, and be prepared to be uncomfortable.

As a grantmaker I aspire to integrate this philosophy into my work and include everyone from the receptionist, the donor, the grantee, and the board member in what I do. Each of us has a role to play in the realization of a community vision. We must listen to others’ needs, find value in their strengths, and provide opportunities for success in order to make incremental change.

As funders we need to analyze our relationship and relevance to the communities we serve as part of our mission. Our ability to do so will play a vital role in advancing the transformation necessary for arts and culture to thrive. There is no “silver bullet” that will solve the challenges articulated in this report. This process will require each of us to examine our own biases and privilege. Staying dedicated to the process through that pain that is “… the breaking of the shell of our understanding” (K. Gibran). It is essential to achieving real equity across all segments of our field.

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Nothing Concedes without a Demand

by Roberto Bedoya (bio), executive director, Tucson Pima Arts Council

“Nothing concedes without a demand.” Frederick Douglas

In the area of equitable grant-making what are the demands being made? Who is making the demands? Who is responding to the demands? What is the nature of the demands? Is it the demand for a policy changes brought on by U.S. demographics, the changing properties of the social good or the economy? What the deep recession has revealed are the fault line in our society—what are the fault lines in philanthropy… what demands have they triggered?

The NCRP report offers us a look at a significant cultural fault line—the politics of resource and position that operates in the culture sector and its relationship to equity and democratic aspirations. It is a report to applaud. (To implicate myself, I acted as an advisory committee member to the research report and there are a few fingerprints of mine in the document.)

As a public funder the relationship to equity issues in never far from the mission of the Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC). It is built into our purposes and processes. Both the City and County governments ask for demographic information associated with our grant-making as part of our yearly evaluation. Being accountable to the wide breath of our community and demonstrating equity is part of our charge.

I joke with colleagues that the public I serve ranges from the anarchists to the white gloves and… they let me know it. The beauty of the public sector is that Tucsonans feels that they have the right to assert: “I don’t like that piece of public art, you’ve wasted my money”, “ Why did A get funded and not B?”, “You privilege the majors”, “You privilege community arts” in the newspapers, on talk radio, at City Council meetings, at TPAC Town Hall gatherings. These assertions can move beyond the “sour-grapes” lament of a few, to a broader one – how a group articulates its demands. Most recently, in the context of Arizona’s toxic social/political landscape the call for cultural equity is paramount and embedded in our cultural communities resistance to the far right attacks on civil society. It is a call and demand for Democracy, not the “me and my friends” self-interests of privatization.

In the report, public funding is presented as more accessible to serving marginalized groups than private foundations, which is true. Yet, the dynamic and catalytic presence that the public funders have in our cultural ecosystem is fragile and under great stress as cities struggle to balance their budget, and arts councils find themselves on the chopping block. At the same time public funders are leaders in the field of community cultural development and arts-based civic engagement activities. They are poised to have a greater impact upon our society as our multi-racial nation continues to grow, shape art making practices and cultural participation.

TPAC’s work in community cultural development is primarily through our P.L.A.C.E. (People, Land, Arts, Culture and Engagement) Initiative, which support art-based civic engagement projects that address contested and complex social issue, which is featured in the report. P.L.A.C.E., supports place-making arts activities that shape the physical and social character of the region through projects that creates a sense of “belonging”, that address the politics of marginalization that says you or your community don’t belong.

The success of P.L.A.C.E., is a result of a partnership with the Kresge Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundations and Open Society Institute who believe that social justice demands that we value diversity, challenge social inequities and fuse “ art, culture and social change”. They understand the important role intermediaries play in achieving this goal. This partnership illuminates a key element of success what in the report is referred to the sovereignty of context, a term that TPAC uses to acknowledge local knowledge and it authority. That moving the equity dial towards a more inclusive democracy is not drive-by work, it takes time and must be rooted in place, in context.

The success of NCRP is that is looks at the politics of marginalization in the cultural philanthropy sector, presents the evidence and prompts reflection on how we serve the public. The demand tied to this analysis is for a more just world, one that is beholding to the evolving richness of our multi-racial sector, that serves our humanity. Change is not all that easy but it must occur, which is a leadership demand that the cultural sector must face if we are to be relevant and of use to our society.

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