85% of funding supporting Black-led organizations.
ATLANTA – August 28, 2020
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta (CFGA) has announced its latest round of funding through its Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund (Arts Fund). A total of $1.15 million was awarded to 28 arts organizations impacted by COVID-19, of which 22 were Black-led. These organizations received a total of $982,392 (85%) in grants. This decision comes after Atlanta resident and arts advocate Heather Infantry took to social media on May 22nd to call out the Foundation’s exclusion of Black arts organizations from $580,000 in a prior COVID relief round of funding. Subsequent inquiry into the Foundation’s grant making practices revealed a 27-year history, under former director Lisa Cremin, of granting primarily to white organizations (87%) and instituting application requirements that functionally disqualified most Black organizations from applying. In response, Infantry galvanized Atlanta’s Black arts community and its supporters to hold the Foundation accountable to equitable giving by co-facilitating a virtual town hall on June 10th. Over 70 representatives from Black arts organizations and their supporters were on the call with Susan Grant, CFGA’s Board Chair, Alicia Philipp, CFGA’s then CEO, and Lita Pardi, CFGA’s VP of Community.
“We wanted to make the case, given the Foundation’s new focus on ‘Equity of Opportunity’, that prioritizing investment in Black arts not only helps to sustain the vibrancy of the arts sector but that Black art is strongly tied to community activism both in the narratives in which they center their work and in the diversity of audiences they serve,” said Infantry. “This is especially important during the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter uprisings.”
During the call, listeners learned the Foundation’s grant review committee for the Arts Fund was all-white, and Pardi admitted “we [the Foundation] don’t have a strong connection to the Black arts community.” Recommendations to the Foundation included ensuring at least an equivalent amount of the remaining funds in the 2020 grant cycle should go to Black arts groups. To that end, it was also suggested application requirements be modified to qualify a larger pool of Black applicants. On July 1, the Foundation posted new guidelines that eliminated unnecessary barriers, and pledged to prioritize “nonprofit organizations founded and led by people of color, especially Black-founded and Black-led organizations that have not been supported in the Arts Fund’s 27-year history.” The Foundation received 63 applications in total, of which 37 were from Black organizations, most of whom qualified for the first time.
“We could never even apply before even though our programming was what they [the Arts Fund] said they were looking for in the RFPs. It was so frustrating. Now we will be able to get one for the first time,” said Shondella Andre, Director of Operations for Amario’s Art Academy for the Gifted and Talented, which provides arts education in South Fulton.
Infantry heralded the Foundation’s announcement as a major win for racial equity in Atlanta.
“The Foundation received 23 applications from white organizations but chose to only support five [18% of grantees] while giving the lion share of funding to Black groups [79%]. That’s real equity. I applaud Frank Fernandez [new Foundation CEO] for taking this bold first step less than a month on the job and for setting a historic precedent of philanthropic reparations. I’m eager to see how this unfolds with their other grantmaking programs,” she added.
Infantry also proposed the Foundation establish a Black task force to help set an equity agenda for the Arts Fund prioritizing Black arts leaders and organizations.
“We are moving forward to convene a task force of Black arts leaders in the coming months to continue driving the work of the Arts Fund toward racial equity and boosting arts organizations that focus on creative expression of the Black experience. This can be a model for more collaborative grantmaking moving forward,” said Frank Fernandez, president and CEO of the Community Foundation in their August 27 press release announcing these awards.
According to the Foundation, grants were made for general operating support, allowing grantees the discretion to immediately put resources where they are needed most. Awards began with a minimum of $10,000 and grants were made available up to 30% of the applicant’s total annual operating expenses.
Executive Director, Programs GENERATOR