Jason Rapp

Wallace Foundation announces investment in arts orgs of color

$53 million over five years to address relevance, resiliency


The Wallace Foundation today announced a five-year, $53 million initiative focusing on arts organizations of color*, and invited eligible arts organizations to apply.

Wallace Foundation logo squareAt the same time, Wallace invited researchers to respond to a request for proposals for the first of several studies associated withthe initiative. All submissions are due August 13, 2021.

The initiative will focus on this guiding question: How can and do arts organizations of color, facing strategic challenges, leverage their experience and histories of community orientation to increase their resilience, while sustaining their relevance? There will be two cohorts of grantees; Wallace currently seeks applications from eligible arts organizations of color that would like to be considered for the first cohort.

This project is part of the foundation’s efforts to foster equitable improvements in the arts, recognizing that many leaders of arts organizations of color report their contributions are often overlooked and underfunded. The initiative draws on emerging evidence that community orientation—which is central to the approach taken by many arts organizations of color—may contribute to relevance and resilience. By ‘relevance’ we mean that organizations matter to their communities; ‘resilience’ means the organizations’ ability to adapt and thrive. Finally, the initiative builds on Wallace’s history in the 1990s and 2000s of supporting efforts by non-profit arts organizations to more deeply engage the communities of which they are part.


“Equity has long been a central value at Wallace, and we hope this initiative advances that commitment,” said Bahia Ramos, director of arts at The Wallace Foundation. “By listening to and partnering with arts organizations of color, and documenting and studying their work, we hope to highlight their important contributions and better understand the practices that make them matter so deeply to their communities.”


Grantees will take community-oriented approaches as they develop individual projects of their choosing, while learning with and from the rest of the cohort. The initiative will incorporate a strong research focus intended to support grantees in their work by providing them with insights into their efforts as they implement their projects; contribute to the research base on cultural institutions, specifically arts organizations of color; and develop evidence-based, practical guidance.

“Our goal is to benefit not only organizations that are selected to be part of the initiative,” Ramos said, “but also other arts organizations of color and the broader field of the non-profit arts.”

To select the first cohort, Wallace will consider organizations with annual budgets between $500,000 and $5 million. Drawing from the initial round of applications, Wallace expects to invite approximately 50 organizations to submit proposals. From those, the foundation will select a cohort of 10 to 12 organizations across the visual and performing arts fields, literary and media arts, as well as community-based organizations focused on artistic practice. Heritage museums of color that include contemporary artists are also eligible.

Each selected organization will receive five years of funding totaling approximately $2 million to $3 million to develop projects that use community-oriented approaches to meet strategic challenges.

In partnership with Wallace, grantees will embark on a planning year for their project—whether it is in progress or something new—and identify any technical supports they might need before beginning four years of project implementation. The grantees will also decide on a name for the initiative—one that captures their collective aspirations and endeavors.

Throughout the initiative, grantees will participate in a peer learning community and in research to advance knowledge in the field. Research questions may be refined as projects become clearer after the planning year. Ethnographic researchers will also work closely with each organization to document its history, practices and organizational culture, providing important archival accounts both for the organization and for the field.


Information for arts organizations 

Details on the application and selection process, and what participation in the initiative entails, are available at Wallace’s information hub, www.wallacefoundation.org/ArtsOpenCall. A brief application form is due by August 13, 2021.

The initiative will include a second, larger cohort that will focus on organizations with budgets below $500,000. This phase of the initiative is anticipated to begin in late 2022.

Information for arts researchers

The first research component of the new initiative is an up to $3.2 million study of community orientation. Wallace seeks researchers with a deep understanding of arts organizations of color and their relationships with the communities they serve, across a diversity of communities and arts disciplines.

The study will focus on the organizations’ activities, the context for those activities, and how they contribute to relevance and resilience. The research will result in a set of public-facing reports and academic papers. The request for research proposals is available at Wallace’s information hub, www.wallacefoundation.org/ArtsOpenCall. ​Letters of intent are due by August 13, 2021.


About the Wallace Foundation

The Wallace Foundation’s mission is to foster equity and improvements in learning and enrichment for young people, and in the arts for everyone. Wallace works nationally, with a focus on the arts, K-12 education leadership and youth development. In all of its work, Wallace seeks to benefit both its direct grantees as well as the fields in which it works by developing and broadly sharing relevant, useful knowledge that can improve practice and policy. For more information, please visit the foundation’s Knowledge Center at wallacefoundation.org.

*For the purposes of this open call, an inclusive process for inviting submissions, The Wallace Foundation uses the term “arts organizations of color” to describe organizations that have been founded by (in either artistic or administrative leadership) and for communities of color. Wallace recognizes that no one umbrella term can accurately represent the plurality and diversity of arts organizations that serve communities of color including Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx, Arab American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander.


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