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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Arts Council of Indianapolis grants focused on equity

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Sixty-nine nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Indianapolis, a majority of which are led by or serve people of color, received a combined $1.2 million in grants from the Arts Council of Indianapolis and the city.

“We’re excited to support nearly 70 organizations through this funding, in partnership with the Arts Council,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a statement. “These grants are a clear demonstration of the city’s commitment to equity and inclusion, as well as our commitment to a robust arts ecosystem across our neighborhoods.”

The grants, which range from $2,000 to $75,000, were awarded through a juried, independent public panel administered by the Arts Council. The criteria this year centered racial diversity, equity, inclusion and access and were evaluated on artistic merit, organizational capacity and community impact.

Of the top 10 scoring organizations, which include the Asante Art Institute, Big Car Collaborative and the Indianapolis Jazz Foundation, 40% of awardees are operated by or serve predominately Black and brown communities.

“This program will become an important barometer of our sector’s progress to advance racial equity as organizations compete for public funds based on accountability criteria developed with direct input from arts leaders,” Arts Council President and CEO Julie Goodman said. “We’re encouraged that 40% of the top-scoring applicants are African American or Latino-centered organizations. This tells us the new criteria is working to ensure that the allocation of public funding through this program represents the community we serve.”

Ernest Disney-Britton, vice president of community impact and investment for the Arts Council, said the council has had conversations about equity and diversity since 2015, around the same time the Arts Council created its equity statement and guide to grantmaking.

“This was also the time when our board made a point of asking about racial diversity when we did site visits amongst organizations,” Britton-Disney said. “Change doesn’t come overnight, but it’s a steady and incremental process and so, what we’ve seen in terms of progress on all fronts, there has been continued impact and prioritization of community impact.”

The money awarded to the organizations are intended to be general operating support, meaning it can be used for anything the organization deems a priority. Oftentimes, Disney-Britton said, organizations centered around people of color are awarded project pool grants, which come with strict restrictions on how the money can be used. These grants, funded by the city, will assist with ever-changing financial needs organizations may face throughout the course of a year.

While organizations didn’t have to indicate what the money would be used for, Disney-Britton said he’s excited to see how the funding will help Fonseca Theater — which received over $45,000 — create an additional space within the Haughville complex for community-centered programming. Further, he looks forward to seeing Asante Children’s Theatre expand its programming and reach.

While these grants directly benefit arts and cultural organizations, the entire community benefits, Disney-Britton said, when it has a thriving arts scene.
“When people see the talent that is here, and creatives are engaged and visible and working within the community, arts organizations become more reflective of the entire community,” Disney-Britton said. “That leads to higher levels of engagement and can lead to partnerships that can help the community in various ways. We are all impacted by the arts.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

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