Call for Sessions: 2021 GIA Conference | Plurality, Power, and Belonging

Grantmakers in the Arts welcomes you to San Juan! How to condense in a paragraph such an enchanting place like Puerto Rico? La Isla del Encanto - the Island of Enchantment - may be associated with palm trees and beaches, the romantic air of Old San Juan and the flavors of Piñones, and the rhythms of bomba and plena, but the island and its people are much more than that. Its complex colonial history and ever-lasting political state define its status as a US territory, and the ancestors of our legacies - Taíno, African, and European - are an example of the diverse social and cultural narratives that encompass Puerto Rico. Deep questions of identity and belonging, speaking truth to power, and embracing a layered and diasporic community offer us immense insight into the ever-adapting culture of the island.

The devastation left by Hurricanes Irma and María, a wave of earthquakes, and economic and political crises only strengthened solidarity in the face of despair among Puerto Ricans. These years-long struggles flowed into massive protests from Puerto Ricans on the island and in the diaspora. Artists and activists, among the many calling for change, continue to lead the way for imagining different relationships of belonging in new futures with the strength Puerto Ricans’ show on their daily brega.

Puerto Rico may be music, sazón, and joy, but it is most importantly its people and their desire to be seen, respected, and celebrated. Join us November 7-10, in San Juan or virtually, to reunite with the GIA community and shape a future that centers culture and justice.

How We Are Showing Up

As GIA prepares to host the 2021 annual conference in Puerto Rico for the first time, there are a few points we’d like you to join us in considering:

Keep in mind the histories and models of extraction within the U.S. and our field

  • How can this engagement seed a long-term relationship?
  • When can we return?
  • What can we leave behind?
  • Where can we invest? Over how long can we invest?

Keep in mind the U.S. history of colonization

  • Our local colleagues are the leaders: Let them lead
  • Ask our local colleagues how they want us to engage
  • Try to accommodate our local colleagues’ preferences

Keep in mind health and safety

  • Ask what precautions our local colleagues and community members want us to take and take them
  • We encourage you to prepare yourself for safe travel before coming to Puerto Rico by taking advantage of your access to vaccines, following local and national recommendations for public health, including wearing a mask and physically distancing.
  • Follow the lead of local authority and the host hotel
  • Bring only passion, excitement, and a commitment to equity and justice; no Covid germs please!

Submission Logistics

Here is some information that may be useful to know before you submit. Please read carefully.

Conference location: Caribe Hilton
1 San Geronimo Street
San Juan, 00901, PR
Dates: Sunday, November 7-Wednesday, November 10
Session submissions: Sessions may only be submitted GIA Members
Proposal deadline: Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 5pm EDT
Notifications: Starting the first week of May

2021 Conference Session Priorities

Grantmakers in the Arts will continue to foreground its funding focus areas: arts education, capitalization, racial equity, support for individual artists, and funding at the intersection of arts and other portfolios. We also encourage session proposals that center Dr. Barbara J. Love’s framework Liberatory Conscious. Four elements in developing a liberatory consciousness include: awareness, analysis, acting, and accountability/ally-ship. These framing elements are meant to serve as reminders in our daily practices and the systems we build, perpetuate, interrupt, or change in working and living. As an anchor to GIA’s commitment to racial equity and justice, the 2021 programming and conference is designed around principles of anti-racism and liberatory consciousness. As the GIA team designs and selects thematic content, we aim to move from awareness to accountability knowing that we must create opportunities for shared learning while also building a community of practice that holds each other up.

Grantmakers in the Arts also encourages conference session proposals that speak to our vision for the future of arts grantmaking by:

  • Increasing support to arts and culture through inclusion of arts and culture (i.e. the engagement of non-arts funders);
  • Using arts and culture as a frame to approach social issues;
  • Considering standard funding practices and alternative economies for investment in arts and culture;
  • Discussions emphasizing advocacy and public policy and practice;
  • Engaging foundation presidents and trustees and directors of public agencies as well as public commission members;
  • Showcasing current or emerging trends, innovative, or experimental approaches to grantmaking, and/or creative responses to problems or opportunities facing the cultural community;
  • Highlighting local perspectives that can also be applied to other locations and communities;
  • Including presenters who are artists, organizers, academics, local-knowledge experts, new grantmakers, and non-arts grantmakers who represent diverse perspectives and populations;
  • Demonstrating collaborations among funders or funders and other sectors;
  • Stimulating discussion and debate, challenge conventional thinking, and/or offer different points of view; and
  • Providing practical advice or tips for funders to take back to their workplaces.

Session Formats

Sessions are dialogic and participatory in nature. Sessions may be presented in any of the following formats, each designed to be highly inquisitive, participatory, and actionable.

ON-SITE SESSIONS: On-site sessions take place at the conference hotel, and all presenters are expected to be joining in-person. On-site sessions are allotted a 60-minute time slot for the session presentation.

VIRTUAL SESSIONS: Virtual sessions take place on online via Zoom, and presenters may join from any geographic location. Virtual sessions are allotted a 60-minute time slot for the session presentation.

OFF-SITE SESSIONS: Off-site breakout sessions take place at arts-related venues ideally linked to session content. Off-site sessions are allotted a three-hour time slot that includes, in addition to the session presentation, time for travel to and from the site, site tours, and/or additional site-specific content. Off-site sessions will be co-designed by session organizer(s) and the GIA team.

Interactive Workshop Lite

Looking to explore new approaches and leading-edge ideas in the field of arts funding? An interactive workshop – presented by a team of 2-6 facilitators – is designed to engage participants in learning new frameworks, practical approaches and tools, case studies to inform work in your home community, and skills for advancing our collective field-wide work. These workshops can take varied formats including creative inquiry; generative, arts-based practice; break-out discussion; hands-on mapping/analysis; or skill-building; among others.

Panel Dialogues

A standard, well-developed panel presentation – presented with 2-4 speakers each bringing a variety of experiences/perspectives to the topic – that may feature [1] deep-dive/field-wide conversation, [2] dialogue with peers with different concentrations, geographies, methodologies, etc., or [3] a case study inquiry. Ensure that at least 1/3 of the session time is dedicated to audience engagement (e.g. Q&A, brainstorming, or collaborative problem-solving).

Un-Panel “Fishbowl” Dialogues

In this dynamic session style, there are 3-5 speakers who contribute to an engaging dialogue concerned with field-wide issues. Rather than using a panel presentation format, speakers gather in a discussion circle with participants seated in concentric circles around them. This session style allows for deeper conversation amongst speakers while encouraging those in the outside circles to participate in this witnessed conversation by joining the fishbowl.

Round Table Dialogues

*designed as 15-20 minute rotating table-talks

Looking for input or feedback on challenges in philanthropic/public funding practice? For subjects that are well suited for a format other than a panel, round table dialogues offer an opportunity for peer-learning on a variety of subjects in quick succession. Each roundtable has a host who puts forward a discussion topic within the theme, after 15-20 minutes, the host remains, and all others move to another table. Dialogue continues for three rounds followed by a final share out by hosts.

Dialogues are facilitated by practitioners, organized by focus area, and encourage peer exchange to share common experiences, challenges, approaches, and solutions. These sessions may be organized by the conference planning team to couple similar topics within a shared space.

How to Propose Conference Sessions

  1. Review the GIA Conference Session Guidelines.
  2. Log in to your account on the GIA website and select the 2021 Conference Proposal Form link on the left. Submit the form no later than Wednesday, April 28. For assistance with user accounts, click the Create new account or Request new password links on the login page or contact Zoë Williams at
  3. After the conference committee has selected the sessions, we will contact session organizers individually to ask for more details. The staff and conference committee will work with session organizers, as appropriate, to identify any local resources needed.

Session Costs

Members proposing and organizing sessions pay their own costs associated with attending the conference as well as the transportation and lodging expenses for their non-member presenters. GIA will provide complimentary one-day registration for all membership-ineligible session presenters as well as provide a $200 speaker honorarium. Once sessions have been accepted, conference staff will work with each organizer to coordinate session details.

Remember: The session proposal deadline is 5 PM EDT on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. If you have further questions, contact Program Manager, Sherylynn Sealy, at