The Solidarity Economy and Culture

We at Grantmakers in the Arts are delighted to present Solidarity Not Charity: Arts & Culture Grantmaking in the Solidarity Economy – a report by Natalia Linares and Caroline Woolard, commissioned by GIA with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, and the Barr Foundation.

The Solidarity Economy is one that centers community ownership and democratic governance that builds political, cultural, and economic power for workers. In fact, some of the most iconic examples of the solidarity economy – the nation’s oldest Native cooperative, oldest non-extractive venture capital firm, first democratic investment fund, among others – were founded by artists and culture-bearers.

The report’s recommendations are part of how GIA is helping arts and culture grantmakers to become investors in culture – broadening the means and tools of support and who/what entities receive support. The Coronavirus pandemic has shown us that cultural organizations and small businesses have vulnerability in common, as do artists, culture-bearers, and other workers.

The GIA member’s community of practice supports more than just arts – we support cultural change.

Culture is a frame for considerations and approaches to social issues. The goal of Grantmakers in the Arts’ work is racial economic and social justice through an intersectional lens ultimately realized through cultural change – a social and economic system in which all people can thrive.

It is essential that we change culture to create economic justice. Racism was created to facilitate economic exploitation of all by a small number of wealthy people, with our keeping BIPOC people at the bottom of the society, and to cement lower and middle class White people’s acceptance of their own oppression by making it seem generous in comparison. Manifest Destiny and the Doctrine of Discovery provided the philosophical and legal framework for this strategy, while the cultural framework for this strategy was provided by assimilationist racism.

According to Ibram X. Kendi, assimilationist racism is the belief that the inferiority of BIPOC folks is cultural and can be corrected through exposure to Western European or white culture. Assimilationist efforts are often well intended. Many early abolitionists believed that African slaves could be saved and freed – as long as they abandoned their African cultures and assimilated into the culture of their owners and would-be saviors. Federal Indian law and policy established removal and assimilation as official government policy.

Assimilationist thinking persists to this day in many forms – including in philanthropy, in the arts, and in the overlap between the two. We evidence this thinking when we passively parrot phrases like “mainstream organization,” when we mean “white.”

Assimilationist racism often uses cultural hierarchy to justify and obfuscate economic hierarchy. All forms of racism keep low-income and middle-income BIPOC people and white people separate, which facilitates economic exploitation of all by the few.

The Solidarity Not Charity report outlines a number of ways that grantmakers and other colleagues can invest in artists’ and communities’ cultural and economic self-determination, including examples of colleagues who are doing so. These investments require a cultural change for our field toward long-term, trust-based investments in an ecosystem. This cultural change requires more than grantmakers in the arts: It requires investors in culture.

Visit https://art.coop/ to explore the report and its interactive website.