Funding Resiliency and Focusing on Equity Through the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund
Today Arts Midwest announced that it will be working with its fellow United States Regional Arts Organizations to launch the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund, a relief initiative seeded by a $10 million dollars investment by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The fund will support recovery and build resilience for arts and cultural organizations facing disruption and loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing organizations that are led by and serving people of color and Indigenous people, and/or serving people from rural communities.
Vice President for Strategy and Programs Adam Perry writes about three ways Arts Midwest is reimagining its grantmaking structures with the fund to fit the needs of our community in this moment of crisis.
Illustration by Billy Keefe
As communities across the Midwest face unprecedented change and hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic, Arts Midwest is thinking about how to best model equitable practices in our work. Here’s what we’re doing differently with the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund:
1. Addressing systemic inequity by specifically supporting historically under-resourced communities and populations.
The United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund intentionally prioritizes organizations that are led by and serving people of color and Indigenous people, and/or serving people from rural communities.
We all know that arts and cultural organizations have been devastated by the impact of COVID-19. When disruption occurs on this kind of scale, existing inequity in our field and our world means that communities of color, Indigenous communities, and rural communities suffer the effects in disproportionate ways. Historically under-resourced organizations in these communities now face an additional lack of access to critical support, investment, and capitalization to weather the pandemic, putting their work acutely at risk. In this moment of crisis, we need to invest in the small- and mid-sized organizations who are essential to the wellbeing, health, and vitality of their communities.
No amount of money will be enough to undo the damage of the last few months. And we know that not all the organizations that need this money will receive support from this fund. We see this fund as a start, not an end, of the work we need to do as a sector and a resource in our creative ecosystem.
2. Simplifying our application process and streamlining how funds can be used.
For this fund, we’re prioritizing a process that supports organizations as quickly as possible and that keeps the time and effort that is required of organizations to seek this support to a minimum.
The application process will happen in two phases, the nomination phase and the proposal phase. Anyone may nominate an arts organization to receive a $30,000 – $75,000 award from the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund by filling out a simple online form before July 8, 2020. Organizations may also self-nominate to support their own work. After the nomination process, a selected number of nominated organizations will be invited to submit a short proposal by August 7.
We’re also streamlining how the funds can be used. We trust organizations to put this money to work where they need it most, including general operating support. Recovery, relief and resilience all have different meanings for arts organizations in this fluid, uncertain moment. There is no “one size fits all” strategy for how these grants can be used and there will no matching requirement for fund recipients.
3. Amplifying the voices of historically under-resourced populations and communities in decision-making.
It is essential that these funds are distributed in an equitable way that reflects the needs and priorities of communities of color, Indigenous communities, and rural communities in our region. To this end, we are working with a diverse group of paid advisors who are engaged in leading and creating work in and for their communities. These advisors are reviewing all submissions and will invite a selected number of the nominated organizations to submit brief proposals. By September, they will have helped to distribute over $1.5 million in our nine-state region.
The United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund is an initiative of Arts Midwest and its peer United States Regional Arts Organizations: Mid America Arts Alliance, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, South Arts, and Western States Arts Federation made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.