Racial Equity

Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) is committed to addressing structural inequities and increasing philanthropic and government support for BIPOC artists and arts organizations. Racial equity is a lens through which GIA aims to conduct all of its work, as well as a specific area of its programming.

Since 2008, GIA has been elevating racial equity as a critical issue affecting the field. To actualize this work within the sector, GIA published its Racial Equity in Arts Funding Statement of Purpose in 2015. Through webinars, articles, convenings, and conference sessions, GIA provides training and information to support arts funders in addressing historic and structural inequity through their grantmaking practices as part of an effort for racial justice as a means toward justice for all.

GIA believes that all oppressed groups should benefit from funding. We give primacy to race because racism is the means by which oppressed groups are manipulated into opposing programs that assist them. Therefore, Grantmakers in the Arts’ equity work – including our discussions of support for trans artists, artists with disabilities and for disability arts – is NOT race-exclusive but IS race-explicit. GIA’s vision for the future of our work is to increasingly reveal how the liberation of all oppressed people is interdependent.

GIA has made a strategic decision to foreground racial equity in our work for several reasons:

  • Within other oppressed peoples’ communities (including women, members of the lgbtqi community, people with disabilities, and others), it has been well-documented that people of color still face the worst social outcomes.
  • GIA feels that others’ strategies of combining considerations of race with other considerations too often result in racialized people being pushed into the background or ignored.
  • The U.S.’ creation of race was established to keep oppressed peoples separate.

Unless we articulate our support for racialized peoples, while calling out this separation strategy, we inadvertently reinforce this separation strategy.

Specific themes of our racial equity programming include:

  • The analysis of how funding practices create structural challenges for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)/ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native-American) organizations (Eurocentric quality standards, matching requirements, among others).
  • The impact of these practices, as manifest in racialized disparities in levels of funding.
  • An exploration of the use of coded language to justify racial inequity (i.e. referring to white audiences as “general” or “mainstream,” while organizations of color are “culturally-specific.”

When it comes to self-identifying language, GIA seeks to use terms that communicate our respect. We do not seek to impose language on members of any group. We respect the manner in which anyone prefers to self-identify. When referring to issues of racial equity, “we use the term BIPOC to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context.” We take this explanation and practice from the BIPOC Project.

GIA has also used the racial and ethnic identifiers African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American. We have used African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American – represented using the acronym ALAANA – because we know that many believe the term, “people of color,” conflates together entire groups of people and as a contrast to white. This results in a continued centering of whiteness as the norm and the standard from which other identities deviate.

GIA does not refer to organizations that are founded by, led by, and feature the work of ALAANA/BIPOC communities as “culturally-specific,” as we believe this term centers whiteness as the norm from which other organizations deviate.

GIA is committed to communicating respectfully. GIA does not ask that anyone self-identify with or use any term other than ones they prefer.

November 28, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

"Who will tell the stories that shape our future? These days, in the United States, this is a matter of fierce disagreement. On one side, a multiracial majority of people believe the US is destined to become a flourishing democracy. On the other, a white nationalist movement steadily advances its vision for a white Christian ethno-state," said Bridgit Antoinette Evans and Tracy Van Slyke for Nonprofit Quarterly. "To say that the project of US democracy is at risk is far from hyperbole. White nationalists have amassed a political and narrative infrastructure that churns out a toxic pool of ideas and stories, spreading disinformation ever more widely."

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November 24, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

From Mellon Foundation: "Master carvers are working with the Sealaska Heritage Institute to create the Totem Pole Trail—ten sculptures celebrating Indigenous tribes who had been historically excluded from Juneau's monuments. In a sense, it was a controversial statue of William Seward that kickstarted Kootéeya Deiyí, the Totem Pole Trail in Juneau, Alaska."

"Seward was the United States Secretary of State who brokered the purchase of the Alaska territory in 1867, nearly a century before it became a state. His bronze likeness in the capital city gave Rosita Worl, a member of the Tlingit tribe, a big idea."

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November 23, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

From The Art Newspaper: "In the wake of a global pandemic and concurrent worldwide reckoning with institutional racism, two illuminating studies on the state of cultural heritage at large have just been released. The Mellon Foundation’s latest “Art Museum Staff Demographic Survey” and the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums’ “2022 Art Museum Trustee Survey” both itemise and quantify the experiences of art museum workers and board members, painting a picture of a sector slowly bouncing back from significant Covid-19 job losses with a renewed focus on diversity."

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November 15, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

"A new virtual event will bring together Indigenous designers, artists, illustrators, and other practitioners to discuss the challenges and triumphs involved in designing typefaces for Native language," said Julianne Aguilar for Hyperallergic. "Co-curated by Ksenya Samarskaya and Neebinnaukzhik Southall (Chippewas of Rama First Nation), Ezhishin is the first-ever conference on Native North American typography."

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November 10, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

"Today, Native Voices Rising (NVR) announced $3.5 million in grants to 114 Indigenous and Native-led advocacy and organizing groups. This year’s grant awardees work on an array of critical issues, including the promotion of Indigenous worldview, addressing trauma created by the U.S. Indian Boarding School policy, climate and water justice, and preventing incarceration in Native communities, to name a few."

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November 9, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

"From Ferguson to Minneapolis, protests against racist policing have been catalyzed by videos of the brutality being spread on social media." On a recent episode of the Slate Race and Identity Podcast, "Jason Johnson sits down with Dr. Ruha Benjamin to talk about her book, Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want, and where social sciences and technology intersect."

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November 8, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

"To cultivate means to acquire or develop, and to harvest means to collect or obtain for a future use," said Creatives Empowered. "Since the summer of 2020, equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has become ‘top of mind’ throughout the cultural sector, and a priority in funding. Who is cultivating and harvesting EDI, and the money that’s available for it And is the equity-seeking community actually being empowered in the process?"

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November 3, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

"You’ve probably heard one. You may have helped craft one. A land acknowledgment is quickly becoming de rigueur among mainstream cultural and arts institutions. An official will stand at a podium and announce: This building is situated on the unceded land of the XYZ people. As if those people are not still here. As if this all happened in the past," said Joseph Pierce for Hyperallergic. "He will breathe deeply and continue: We pay homage to the original stewards of these lands. The audience will nod in agreement. As if homage were the same as returning stolen land."

"A land acknowledgment is not enough."

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October 31, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

From BlackPittsburgh: "Justin Laing, the Principal at the anti-racist leadership and strategy firm Hillombo, is not your average Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant. Prior to founding Hillombo in 2017, Laing was a senior program officer at the Pittsburgh-based The Heinz Endowments, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the U.S. focused on community building in southwestern Pennsylvania. Laing spent 11 years there. His professional trajectory in the nonprofit world presents a powerful story of dedication to the Black Pittsburgh community."

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October 25, 2022 by Jaime Sharp

From The Giving Done Right Podcast: "Author and activist Heather McGhee joins hosts Phil Buchanan and Grace Nicolette for the fifth episode of season three of the Giving Done Right podcast. Heather provides keen insight into ‘drained pool’ politics, a core metaphor in her book, 'The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together,' that reveals how the racial zero sum mindset hurts everyone.

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