Advancing Art @ The Intersection of Social Change

Like so many of us, we’ve been focusing much of our efforts here at GIA on what our future might look like. In the face of injustices like the racialized impacts of the pandemic and murders of Black people by the state, we must continue to center our values in all our work, as we explore new ways to share our work.

GIA received support from the Barr Foundation and the Kresge Foundation to experiment with new ways to share the value of arts and culture in social change efforts with the public sector and private philanthropy. Our central aim is to further integrate arts and culture into social change strategies toward realizing racial, intersectional, and economic justice. Toward that end, GIA hired an advisory consultant team that included Cultural Strategies Council, National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation at Arizona State University, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and National Alliance for Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA).

The team interviewed stakeholders -including foundation presidents, career public servants, community/economic development corporations, community development finance institutions and banks as well as a futurist- to interrogate how influence flows and how funding decisions are made.

The consultants’ recommendations have several themes in common. Central is that the goal of racial, intersectional and economic justice requires systemic transformation. GIA believes in supporting arts and culture as we believe that the arts, culture, and radical imagination can facilitate radical transformation. Arts and cultural strategies can support transformational change and foster conditions that enable new relationships, ideas, identities, and behaviors to emerge. These resources can shift the atmosphere, enabling individuals to encounter difference, share experiences, engage in meaningful dialogue, develop mutual understanding, and find common cause – the foundation of meaningful collective action.

Systemic transformation requires that grantmakers expand their investment strategies. This includes thinking strategically about where we invest. For instance, one of our consultants identified public sectors where the arts and culture field should focus, such as: workforce-development, with a focus on teens and young adults; public health; infrastructure; and the places in our public sector where children interact with our policing system, our court system, and our incarceration systems. These parts of the public sector will be public sector priorities as we recover from the pandemic, have a proven track record of collaboration with arts and culture, and have active networks in the field.

We believe GIA’s role in this systemic transformation is facilitating coordination and adaptation. GIA must connect with local and national influence networks that are working toward racial, economic, and intersectional justice and find ways to complement their work. GIA must help our members to support power-building and community organizing. To do this, we need to engage in policy advocacy and to educate our members to support policy advocacy of their grantees, both organizational and individual.

GIA must further evolve our investments in people. GIA can complement our current broadcast-focused means of professional development with a more high-touch, more relationship-oriented manner of professional development to build their capacity to work differently. This high-touch, relational professional development can help public arts agencies work with other parts of the public sector, help private funders complement public agencies’ efforts, and help funders support advocates and community members to build power.

We know these changes will take time. GIA must change and evolve with our field by integrating these lessons into our ongoing programs and developing new bodies of work, new relationships, and new supports.

We are eager to move into this work with you.