Black August: “The change I would like to see in cultural grantmaking is a values shift”

Responding to: How can cultural grantmaking interrupt institutional and structural racism while building a more just funding ecosystem that prioritizes Black communities, organizations, and artists?

The change I would like to see in cultural grantmaking is a values shift. As we seek to support Black artists and communities in the future, we must recognize the system operating today which heavily invests in large, white institutions, and centers around and funds organizations and programs rather than people.

The change the field needs starts with an investment in leaders and leadership development. As it stands, leadership development opportunities are hard to come by, especially for Black arts leaders. Long-term, intentional investment in these Black creatives is essential for their retention both within individual organizations and within the field. The sector can be an isolating space for these leaders, and continued investment through funding opportunities, community cultivation, professional development, and mentorship would truly support Black artists, arts administrators, and Black communities.

Additionally, a shift in focus from project-based funding to long-term investments into Black institutions opens up possibilities, providing these organizations with the ability to thrive and own their successes by allowing them to take risks in programming, the capacity for innovative strategic planning, and access to creative staff and the resources to pay them fairly. Too often Black organizations receive small, restrictive grants which limits their range and development, creating hurdles in continued investment opportunities. These organizations can have the appearance of instability due to limited access to long-term physical space, traditionally an asset many white organizations benefit from due to private and public sector funding. This cycle of disinvesting or underinvesting in Black organizations can only be disrupted by institutional-level investment.

Finally, holding cultural grantmaking accountable for how funds are utilized towards community investment and examining guidelines for grantmaking would lead to a holistic embrace of the racially diverse communities within funder service areas. To achieve an equitable utilization of funds, grantmaking bodies must include staff that is reflective of the communities they serve, including at the board and senior leadership levels. The future of the field has the potential to surge with possibilities if we explore where value is placed, throw out the status quo, and center people and communities first.

Nikki Kirk is Americans for the Arts' Equity in Arts Leadership program manager.

Read more here:
Black August: How cultural grantmakers can reflect, learn, and connect with Black social justice

How philanthropy fails to support its greatest assets, BIPOC leaders, and what it should do about it

Image: Clay Banks / Unsplash