New Fund To Help Arts-And-Culture Groups Plan For The Pandemic, And Beyond

Aug 24, 2020

A new grant-maker wants to help arts-and-culture groups in the region not simply survive the coronavirus pandemic, but emerge from it stronger, more diverse, and more equitable.

The Arts | Equity | Reimagined | Fund is the brainchild of the COVID-19 Arts Working Group, a cohort of 16 funders that began meeting in March, shortly after the pandemic began. The fund was announced this week. The group includes the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, along with smaller funders like the Buhl Foundation, The Opportunity Fund, the Fine Foundation and the Grable Foundation.

While many funders have already provided support for arts groups to weather the pandemic, Arts | Equity | Reimagined is thinking longer-term, said Maggie Richardson, who along with Mary Navarro is one of two of the new fund’s project managers.

“This is not meant to fill in holes, per se, but to really encourage our arts leaders and cultural community to think about how we need to be different to make the whole sector stronger, more equitable, more inclusive, more resilient and sustainable long term,” said Richardson.

The fund has an initial commitment of $3.5 million. It is open to all arts-and-cultural organizations in a 14-county region. However, the group notes in a statement, “in recognition of long-standing disparities in funding, [Arts | Equity | Reimagined] will prioritize small to medium-sized arts organizations and those that serve or are led by historically marginalized communities in southwestern Pennsylvania, whether they be urban or rural in location.”

Funding falls into two categories. Grants for Capacity Building Assistance, open to groups or collaboratives with budgets of $2.5 million or less, could back anything from technical assistance, like financial planning, to anti-racism training, Richardson said. And grants under the rubric Collective Action for Re-imagining seeks projects by three or more groups of any size that address problems affecting many in the cultural sector. Richardson gave the example of improving workers' access to mental-health care, but the projects could tackle any problem faced by arts organizations, she said.

“We really just want to seek out the strategic ideas,” she said.

And while the new fund is meant to address problems caused by COVID-19, applicants should be thinking about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, Richardson aid.

“Our expectation is that folks who apply, particularly to the collective action part of the program, that is going to be a strong value of whatever the solution they are proposing as well,” she said.

Capacity-building grants will range from $1,000 to $25,000. Collective Action grants are open-ended in size. “A brilliant idea doesn’t have to cost a ton of money,” Richardson said.

The new fund expects its current assets of $3.5 million to last through 2020, she said. However, she added, fundraising would continue, with a longer-term goal of an additional $1 million or more.

Interest is already high. An information session held Aug. 20 via Zoom drew several dozen participants.

Online information sessions continue this week, at 3 p.m. Mon., Aug. 24, and 9 a.m. Tue., Aug. 25. The application deadline for capacity-building grants is Sept. 4. The deadline to apply for Collective Action grants is Sept. 17. For more information, see www.artsreimagined.org.