NYC Cultural Agenda Fund Places Marker on Racial Justice Initiative Ahead of City’s Cultural Plan Release

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

NYC Cultural Agenda Fund Places Marker on Racial Justice Initiative Ahead of City’s Cultural Plan Release

As New York City prepares its first comprehensive cultural plan, the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund in The New York Community Trust is making more than half a million dollars in grants to support efforts to increase cultural and racial equity in the City's cultural landscape.

In addition to The Trust, contributors to the Fund include the Booth Ferris, Lambent, Stavros Niarchos, and Robert Rauschenberg foundations and the David Rockefeller and Rockefeller Brothers funds. Since 2014, the Fund has raised more than $1.6 million to strengthen the City's arts advocacy network and advance cultural policy and equity.

Inspired by recent efforts in Seattle, Nashville, and San Francisco to increase racial equity among arts groups, the Fund is now awarding $530,500 in grants. 

That includes $400,000 to Race Forward to conduct an 18-month training series and technical assistance program. The agency will guide representatives from 60 arts groups through its racial justice curriculum and provide coaching for participants to create plans to advance racial equity at their organizations. Participating groups will receive participant stipends, and a select number of them will be awarded bonus stipends of $10,000 to put into action their racial equity work plans. (Racial equity refers to people of all racial identities having equitable opportunities and outcomes.)

"We are delighted to be working in deeper partnership with Race Forward, which provided racial justice training to our grantees last year," says Cultural Agenda Fund co-chair and Lambent Foundation executive director Michelle Coffey. "Race Forward's program shows a strong awareness of and sensitivity to the complex and shifting conditions of our field, and I commend the group for providing multiple layers of support to program participants."  

In addition to the racial equity training grant, the Fund sent out a request for proposals to conduct community organizing activities around the City's cultural planning process, which began earlier this fall and will wrap up in the spring of 2017.

The following 10 groups have been awarded grants to organize and engage communities around the plan and provide policy recommendations to the planning team (all grantees were funded at the amounts requested in their proposals):

  • With a grant of $10,000, AMERINDA will organize the Native American arts community to generate a policy brief and ensure that Native American voices are included in the cultural planning process.
  • A $10,000 grant will help Asian American Arts Alliance work with Asian American Federation to host community-based town halls in Queens and elsewhere that will gather policy recommendations from Asian American artists and residents, and submit findings to the City.
  • With $10,000, BRIC will undertake convening and research activities to ensure that the needs of the Downtown Brooklyn arts community are included in the City's cultural plan.
  • With a $10,000 grant, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute's Cultural Equity Coalition, a group of young (aged 25-40 years) cultural workers, will produce policy recommendations that advance cultural, social, and fiscal equity in the cultural plan.
  • $10,000 will allow the Center for Arts Education to work with the Alliance for Quality Education, the New York City Arts in Education Roundtable, and the City's principals and teachers unions to ensure that the myriad voices of the City's public school community are reflected in the cultural planning process.
  • A grant of $7,000 will support King Manor Museum in collaborating with the Building Community Capacity Initiative in Jamaica, Queens to collect, process, and disseminate data on the cultural needs of Southeast Queens.
  • With a $10,000 grant, Loisaida with work with Latino arts communities in Lower Manhattan to help shape the development of a comprehensive, culturally and linguistically competent, inclusive, and equitable cultural policy in New York City.
  • $10,000 will support the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center in working with New York City Arts Coalition/One Percent for Culture, Center for Arts Education, The Field, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, and Gibney Dance to assess the sector's understanding of advocacy and ensure that both academic and professional performing arts are represented in the cultural plan.
  • With a grant of $10,000, New York Foundation for the Arts will work with Penn Flood Consulting and peer arts groups around the City to conduct focus groups and ensure that the voices of individual artists are incorporated into the cultural planning process. 
  • A grant of $10,000 will allow Staten Island Arts to select, train, and support 10 community ambassadors, who will conduct neighborhood-based data gathering that will be used to represent Staten Island in the cultural plan.

Additionally, the Fund made a related grant of $33,500 to the lead consultant on the City's cultural plan, Hester Street Collaborative, which will collaborate with Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts and the Interaction Institute for Social Change to train the community organizing grantees above to facilitate meaningful dialogue around the City's cultural plan. Participants will learn creative and interactive methods for keeping discussions on track, encouraging diverse viewpoints, and sharing ideas that value the contributions of all community members.

"We are excited to provide crucial support to groups poised to advance cultural equity during this historic moment as the City crafts its first cultural plan," says Fund co-chair Kerry McCarthy, program director for thriving communities (including arts and historic preservation) at The Trust. "We are confident these grantees will produce town hall meetings, assessments, policy briefs, and networks that will make meaningful contributions."