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.

March 18, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

“Everyone in philanthropy can potentially play a role in supporting transformative racial justice work," remarks Lori Villarosa, founder and executive director, Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE) in a piece for PEAK Grantmaking blog. "But to unlock that potential, each person needs to apply racial equity and racial justice lenses to all aspects of their work. And grants professionals can be a driving force by both shifting practice and ensuring that the organization is impactfully looking at its work through both lenses.”

March 17, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"Grants management professionals are strategically positioned to influence a funder’s racial equity and racial justice funding. But in three decades of working in and with foundations, I have consistently seen a pattern where people serving in these roles are excluded from these conversations as a matter of institutional habit," writes Lori Villarosa, founder and executive director, Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE), in PEAK Grantmaking Journal, issue 19. "As a result, there is a lack of understanding across the field about how the work of grants management directly relates to advancing racial equity and justice."

March 15, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

Media Impact Funders (MIF) share a glimpse of their time at Sundance Film Festival with a Film Funders Follow-up. In this conversation with Vincent Stehle, MIF executive director, Sonya Childress and Sahar Driver, Color Congress, and Denae Peters, Perspective Fund, participants discuss a new field-building organization called the Color Congress.

March 4, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"Chicago’s creative vitality is worth celebrating, but we must acknowledge that support for the arts and culture sector has not been distributed equitably across the city’s geographies or populations. With this in mind, in 2019 MacArthur announced a new approach called Culture, Equity, and the Arts (CEA), through which we directly support organizations with annual budgets of $2 million and above," Geoffrey Banks, senior program officer, Chicago Commitment, shares a new, more equity-centered approach for our funding to small and medium sized arts and culture organizations.

February 23, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

A new playbook from LISC and Next City, Equitable Pathways to Small Business Recovery: An All-Hands Approach, offers a framework for paving equitable pathways to small business success, and lays out concrete strategies for supporting capital access, small business capacity, and commercial real estate with specific emphasis for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) -led or -owned small businesses.

February 22, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

Last week, 412 New York City-based arts entities founded, led, and serving Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and all People of Color (POC) called for leaders of NYC’s cultural community to create a $100M fund to support POC-led arts entities and to address gaps in cultural equity across the city. The call comes as the group launches HueArts NYC, the only citywide effort to bring greater cultural equity, visibility, and support to all POC cultural institutions and initiatives across NYC’s five boroughs.

February 21, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

Black Philanthropy Circle, a fund at the Baltimore Community Foundation, has been launched to focus on charitable giving to nonprofits that directly support Black people and communities in the Baltimore area.

February 16, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"It is too early to determine whether the waves of protests of recent years as part of the Black Lives Matter movement will actually constitute a 'racial reckoning' (as the media dubbed it) or not, but awareness of the role of systemic inequality and structural racism appears to be at or near its historical peak, especially among White Americans. This means that the aperture for meaningful policy change has opened," writes Stephen Menedian in an essay on the Othering & Belonging Institute blog.

February 15, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

Zakiya Harris is in the process of group of co-founding BlacSpace Cooperative, organizations led by Black women in Oakland working to create a business development ecosystem to uplift the city's Black arts community. Harris - a cultural architect who grew up in East Oakland and has worked for more than two decades on projects that explore the intersections of art, activism, and entrepreneurship - says, "We, as a collective community, recognized that we were at a critical moment, and we could leverage the opportunity of the pandemic and the uprising toward a cultural reset."

February 14, 2022 by Nadia Elokdah

"When I think of the phrase 'You’re always a day late and a dollar short,' I also think about resilience—the ability to recover from or adjust easily to, despite hard luck or change," writes Helanius J. Wilkins in a poignant essay published in the National Performance Network (NPN) blog. "One of my earliest lessons about resilience came through observing my father."