Not Just Money

Equity Issues in Cultural Philanthropy

Helicon Collaborative

Arts and culture are essential in any society and in all eras, but they are especially important now, as we grapple with the dramatic political, social and environmental shifts we are facing, and when some of our core democratic principles are being tested in new ways. The United States is becoming more diverse – 37 percent of our population is of color, 25 percent is an immigrant or child of an immigrant, 40 percent is under 30 years of age. Our cultural landscape is evolving to reflect this changing population.

There are now more artists and cultural groups working in traditions based in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East; and entirely new art forms are springing up as these forms of expression intersect and people respond to their experience and conditions. Audiences for and participants in arts activities are diversifying as well.

The nonprofit sector plays an essential role in developing diverse creative voices, nurturing artistic risk-taking, and ensuring wide access to arts and culture in every community across the country. Nonprofit organizations are particularly important vehicles for nourishing cultural creation and stewarding forms of artistic expression that are new, unfamiliar or unlikely to thrive in the marketplace alone.

The contributions of foundations and individual donors – who provide almost half of the annual revenue of the nonprofit cultural sector – help support the part of our shared cultural domain that is not primarily market-driven. However, cultural philanthropy is not keeping pace with the evolution of our cultural landscape.

A first step toward a fairer and more inclusive field of cultural philanthropy is for donors of all kinds to honestly examine the significant inequities in the current distribution of funding with a willingness to address the deeply rooted structures, practices and beliefs that keep it this way.

Source: Article Introduction