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Heinz Endowments Announces $10 Million For Black Arts In Pittsburgh Area

Jason Phox
90.5 WESA

The Heinz Endowments announced $10 million in new grants for Black-led arts and cultural organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania on Thursday. The program is part of a Ford Foundation initiative infusing $156 million into Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous arts organizations across the country.

“It is a significant—probably the largest single investment that we've seen in Black cultural arts … ever coming from the foundation sector,” said Heinz Endowments president Grant Oliphant.

The Ford Foundation provided $5 million and the Heinz Endowments provided an additional $5 million in matching. The program, which is named Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures, will focus first on supporting Black cultural organizations. Some of the grants may range from $500,000 to $1 million and will pay out over multiple years.

Pittsburgh’s POISE Foundation, the oldest Black community foundation in America, will house the $5 million from the Ford Foundation and they will also partner to design and manage the grant program.

“Too often members of the Black community are asked to respond to events or circumstances after the fact,” said Mark Lewis, POISE Foundation president and CEO, in a release. “Engaging local residents and organizations during this process affords them a sense of ownership and equity in determining what they view as cultural treasures.”

Since 1988, the Heinz Endowments has partnered with the Pittsburgh Foundation in making grants through the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh, but the Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasure program represents a bigger commitment to Black arts.

“While I’m proud of the history and of the work we’ve done,” Oliphant said, “I think we’re also at a part of our journey where we need to keep getting better at it.”

The Heinz Endowments is accepting nominations now for a Black Cultural Treasures mapping project. The Heinz Endowments is working with community leaders to choose the first grant recipients, who will be announced by the end of the year.

Susan Scott Peterson is an audio producer and writer whose journalism, radio and literary work have appeared with Vox Media, New Hampshire Public Radio, Allegheny Front, The Texas Observer and The Rumpus.