New York, NY,
17:28 PM

The Wallace Foundation Announces a Five-Year, $53 Million Initiative Focusing on Arts Organizations of Color


Wallace encourages eligible arts organizations to apply and invites researchers to respond to a request for proposals

Initiative to explore how arts organizations of color facing strategic challenges leverage their community orientation to increase their resilience, while sustaining their relevance

Tina Gutierrez /

The Wallace Foundation today announced a five-year, $53 million initiative focusing on arts organizations of color*, inviting eligible arts organizations to apply. At the same time, Wallace invited researchers to respond to a request for proposals for the first of several studies associated with the 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 community orientation to increase their resilience, while sustaining their relevance? There will be two cohorts for the initiative; Wallace currently seeks expressions of interest 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 orientationwhich is central to the approach taken by many arts organizations of colormay contribute to relevance and resilience. 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.

“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 budget sizes 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. Each selected organization will receive five years of funding totaling approximately $2 to $3 million to develop and pursue projects, using community-oriented approaches to strategic challenges.

In partnership with Wallace, grantees will embark on a planning year for their projectwhether it is in progress or something new—name the initiative, and identify any technical supports they might need, before beginning four years of project implementation.

Throughout the initiative, grantees will participate in a peer learning community and 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 itself and for the field.

Information for arts organizations

For details on eligibility, the application and selection process, and what participation entails, visit the online information hub at Before submitting, organizations are encouraged to review the FAQ and to sign up for one of Wallace’s optional 15-minute consultations. Applications are 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, anticipated to begin in late 2022, will include establishing the eligibility criteria, selecting grantees and determining what kind of projects they wish to undertake.

Information for arts researchers

The first research component of the new initiative is an up to $3.2 million study of community orientation. The Foundation is seeking a research team, or collaborating team of researchers, with a deep understanding of arts organizations of color and their relationships with the communities they serve, across the diversity of communities and arts disciplines that constitute this part of the arts ecosystem.

The study will focus on the organizational activities, the context for those activities, and how they contribute to relevance and resilience. The research studies will result in a set of public-facing reports and academic papers. Learn more in the request for proposals. Letters of intent are due August 13, 2021.

*For the purposes of this Open Call, 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 Islanders.