To Be Brave and Radical in Arts Philanthropy

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

To Be Brave and Radical in Arts Philanthropy
 By Maurine Knighton and Kerry McCarthy, Co-Chairs, Advisory Committee, The Mosaic Network and Fund in The New York Community Trust  

Today’s cultural and political moment demands action from all of us, in whatever spheres of influence we may have. Our responsibility in this moment is to move from talking to action, to tackle the inequities we see in our professional world—arts philanthropy.

In our blog post last spring, we shared the results of a report from Yancey Consulting that outlines what it would take for New York’s African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American (ALAANA) arts groups to thrive, not just survive. We urged our colleagues in philanthropy to join us to address the funding inequities that perpetuate precarious conditions for these groups, leaving many continually undercapitalized.

Since then, we’ve brought together a coalition of 14 foundations, corporations, and other philanthropy-serving organizations to forge a new way of helping underfunded groups thrive. TheMosaic Network and Fund in The New York Community Trust is a learning network and collaborative fund to support arts and cultural organizations that are led by, created for, and accountable to ALAANA people. Over the next few years, the Mosaic Network and Fund will build a brave and radical space to foster trust, communication, and mutual learning among ALAANA arts groups and New York City philanthropies. The work, which has been co-designed by arts leaders and funders, will officially kick off in March 2019, when Mosaic offers the first of a series of four learning exchanges.

To create a radically inclusive process, we had to slow down, adjust our timeline, and allow space for new voices. We formed an advisory committee of ALAANA arts leaders and funders in July to guide our work in the exchanges and beyond. We now have two goals: changing the structure of the social network among collaborators and colleagues and establishing a new grants program to direct more resources to ALAANA arts groups.  During the exchanges, we will seek feedback on both aspects of our work. In the meantime, we leave you to consider our guiding principles—to be our authentic selves, race explicit, and radically inclusive—as we enter our next phase. This includes talking to cultural workers throughout our communities to better understand our respective practices, while connecting dots, building relationships, and sharing resources along the way.

We are grateful for the wisdom and leadership of the Mosaic Network Advisory Committee, members who have demonstrated what it means to be brave and radical in this effort. They are drawn from AMERINDA, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, The Billie Holiday Theatre, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, the Andrew W. Mellon, Surdna, and Doris Duke Charitable foundations, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, and The New York Community Trust. We also are thankful to our spirited donors: the aforementioned foundations and the Altman, Nathan Cummings, Ford, Howard Gilman, Mertz Gilmore, and Stavros Niarchos foundations; Bloomberg Philanthropies; and Grantmakers in the Arts.

We are inspired by this incredible start and look forward to testing a new participatory approach to arts philanthropy that will better serve ALAANA arts groups–making the City more vibrant and livable. We will continue to share what we learn as we move from words to action.


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