Supporting Arts and Culture Organizations to Advance Equity at the Community Level

Philanthropy has a crucial role in supporting arts and culture organizations to address inequities at the community level, write Kerry McCarthy, vice president for philanthropic initiatives for The New York Community Trust, and Maurine Knighton, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, in Stanford Social Innovation Review.

"When we invest in organizations like these, we’re helping remove inequities that have an often unseen, yet profound, impact on our society—inequities that run much deeper than the organizations themselves. Culture, after all, is an important force in advancing social change," McCarthy and Knighton state. They add:

Encouraged by national organizations such as Grantmakers in the Arts, which is actively working to provide funders with new research, resources, and best practices, a small-but-growing number of funders are working with arts and culture organizations and individual donors to address inequities at the community level in creative, systemic ways.

McCarthy and Knighton offer steps funders can take to drive change toward more inclusive arts philanthropy, along with some examples from the field. Below are some of their ideas:

  • "It’s not enough to say you want to become more equitable. To make progress, arts funders must set explicit goals and develop concrete plans for improving their policies and practices."
  • "By exposing (funders) to organizations outside of their normal networks, existing funders can help expand the circle of arts and culture groups that earn their support."
  • "Collective action can help program officers and boards gain broader exposure to as African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American (ALAANA) arts organizations in their communities and expand the pool of financial resources."

Local arts and cultural institutions, state McCarthy and Knighton, have the power to help drive equity and inclusion within and across communities. They highlight the work by The Mosaic Network and Fund in The New York Community Trust, a consortium of New York City-based arts funders and local arts organization leaders, working together to increase funding to ALAANA groups. They emphasize:

It’s time for philanthropy to get creative and correct the historical unfairness of arts funding. It should strive to do so with humility and in partnership with others, seeking out the perspectives of the people it hopes to benefit and establishing meaningful relationships. From there, cultural philanthropy can develop and implement plans to ensure that efforts are creating more opportunities for talented artists of color.

Read here the article.

Image: Billie Holiday Theatre, Inc. / Facebook