Galvanizing Organizations Around a Commitment to Racial Equity: A reflection on GIA’s Racial Equity in the Arts Funding workshop

Calandra Childers and Brian J. Carter

As you undoubtedly know, Seattle and King County were back in March the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. As of April 16, in Washington state there were 10,783 confirmed cases and 567 deaths (with 312 of those deaths in King County), according to data from Washington State Department of Health. We mourn those who have lost their lives, we pray for those fighting for their lives, and we stand in solidarity with our community as we struggle toward an uncertain future.

Our two organizations — 4Culture and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture — value partnership as the most effective vehicle for funding support for cultural practitioners and organizations in the region. At this moment, these creative workers and organizations are dealing with closures, lay-offs, and unprecedented economic losses. In the short term, both our organizations are working with local leaders, municipalities, and fellow cultural organizations to quickly implement relief efforts that will provide financial assistance to those most in need.

In this trying time, the words of Audre Lord articulate the spirit of collaboration we see all around us: “It was a while before we came to realize that our place was the very house of difference rather than the security of any one particular difference.” We see the community of cultural funders compassionately reaching out to each other offering help, support, and partnership in hopes of bringing about broader collective impact.

We witnessed this spirit at a recent GIA Racial Equity in the Arts Funding workshop brought to Seattle by a multitude of local funders including Microsoft, Nesholm Family Foundation, ArtsFund, Humanities Washington, Artist Trust, 4Culture, and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. This workshop was a moment of learning and reflection as we grappled with the inequities of cultural philanthropy and, more importantly, thought deeply about the ways we can leverage our privilege and power to make lasting change.

Following the workshop, we were inspired to formalize a loose confederation of local funders, that have long been regularly meeting, to share data and information. This idea, still under development, is to further galvanize these cultural funding organizations around a shared understanding and commitment to racial equity. This effort would serve three functions:

  1. Provide alignment through the sharing of information and resources that would create a community of support and accountability for local funders.
  2. Advocate for the sector by creating space for policy discussion and prioritization that would result in a more unified story to affect policy change.
  3. Address systemic issues by piloting and closely evaluating a series of collective action models.

There is a long road ahead to make this dream a reality, but the current pandemic only reinforces our belief that the effectiveness of cultural philanthropy can be amplified when we work together around shared values. We stand with you and your communities as we all respond to this outbreak and push forward our important work.

Image: Grantmakers in the Arts

Please contact GIA President & CEO Eddie Torres at to find out more about hosting a workshop in your community.