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The Organizations Spearheading the Advancing Well-Being in the Arts Initiative

These organizations are helping Wallace appreciate what it takes to build thriving cultural communities
March 21, 2024
Philadanco dancer in 2023

Wallace's Advancing Well-Being in the Arts initiative seeks to help address the lack of investment in arts organizations founded by, with, and for communities of color, and also to learn more about what it takes to create thriving communities around the arts.

Spearheading this initiative are a diverse group of 18 organizations representing a range of art forms and communities throughout the country. Here are some of those organizations, describing what they do, in their own words.     

1Hood Media


1Hood Media is working to strengthen its Artivist Academy, which supports artists and gives them space to create, build communities with other artists, and spread their art throughout their communities.


Jasiri X: Peace, my name is Jasiri X. I’m cofounder and CEO of 1Hood Media. 1Hood Media are honored to be a part of The Wallace Foundation’s arts initiative specifically designed to uplift arts organizations of color.

1Hood Media is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to build liberated communities through art, education, and social justice. And one of the reasons why it's important to do this work in Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is traditionally one of the poorest Black communities in the country. In 2019, Pittsburgh was named one of the worst cities, or the worst city in America for a Black woman to live. Obviously, that extends to arts and arts creators.

And so for us, being here is an opportunity to give much-needed resources and a platform to specifically artists of color, specifically those that do work around using their art to speak to issues of social justice, activism, and cultural organizing.

Our lead on our project is our director of education Jasmine Green. She's going to tell us a little bit more about our Artivist Academy.

Jasmine Green: And so again my name is Jasmine Green. I'm the Director of Education here at 1Hood. And so the Artivist Academy is a cohort of artists who are at the pinnacle of the intersection of arts and activism here in the Western PA region. This is a collection of artists, between like 10 to 15 artists, each year to 18 months. And it's supporting them and celebrating them in their craft.

It's more celebrating their practice and not just projects. So it's also trying to provide a model for philanthropic organizations, institutions here in the city, so that we can create a future in which we are supporting artists overall on a holistic means as opposed to just project-based means moving forward.

Jasiri X: Yes, these artists get a honorarium for participating in the program. They also get resources for professional development and to do a show in our theater here, which is called the Blackbox. So yeah. it's been a dope project.

You know Farooq, you've been a part of, you know, coalescing and kind of getting the artists together and choosing some of the artists in the program. What do you think about how the program works?

Farooq Al-Said: Yeah, no, it's super dope. In Pittsburgh, we have a very interesting landscape because it's the city with the most nonprofits per capita in the world and philanthropy is such a marketable thing here. But often times black artists are siloed and prevented from getting resources and access to resources and pathway that, you know, other white artists do. So what we do with the Artivist Academy is really give these artists and activists, and just these creatives, an opportunity to feel valued, but also create free from the shackles of white supremacy and philanthropy and under the parameters of, like, ‘you have to work, you have to produce work, you have to do something, you know, at the drop of a dime.’

They really just kind of have the liberties to just create with freedom and free from oppression and just, you know, really be their authentic selves.

Jasiri X: That was beautiful. Miracle you know we do deal with artists and activists, you know. You're our director of advocacy and policy. You know, speak to some of the issues that like organizers and activists face in Pittsburgh as well.

Miracle Jones: You know, as Nina said, the role of an artist is to reflect the signs of the times. And as artists who are trying to talk about their lived experiences, sometimes they do come across barriers of where people do not want to hear what they have to say, see what they are creating, or even have the resources to live, right? We still have this idea of a struggling artist, which also means that our people are victimized by society, but they're also victimized and forgotten and exploited by the art industry. And the work that we do is not only validating artists in our community, but it's pouring into them. It's giving them an opportunity to breathe and to have a reset to build community with other artists and then talk about not only what's going on in their communities, but envision a better world, and to use art to ideate as we like to say here at 1Hood. But also to just think about ways in which we all have we need to live and thrive. So whether we're talking about water, whether we're talking about violence, police terror, whether we're talking about the housing crisis.

We're able to do that here with these artists, who are from our communities, who we’re getting to know, and that we're able to have them go out and invite people from the community in. And it's a two-way street, right, cuz we're building these artists, we're also bringing the community in and letting the community have the ability to see art, to engage in art, to learn about art.

And that is why it's the Artivist Academy.

Jasiri X: Absolutely, our goal is to build a liberated community and that's a community where we can be our full, authentic selves in absence of white supremacy, patriarchy, and all those things that, unfortunately, now we're forced to navigate. And we believe that with art, art is really that first, you know, salvo in terms of changing people's minds, changing people’s hearts. In terms of the type of arts that we produce, we feel like art is a very, very powerful means and important means to our goal of being liberated, specifically as Black people here in the Pittsburgh area.

And so we want to thank The Wallace Foundation again for selecting us, investing in us, and allowing us to bring resources to Black and Brown and cultural organizers in Pittsburgh to do the work that needs to be done to make Pittsburgh, a city that was called the most livable city in America, livable for all of us and not just a few. Peace, y'all, 1Hood.

Arab-American National Museum

Dearborn, Mich.

The Arab-American National Museum is working to better understand its community’s needs and creating and refining programs to help meet those needs.


Hi, my name is Khadega Muhammad. I'm the community engagement organizer here at the Arab American National Museum. We’re grateful for The Wallace Foundation because it has forced us to take a deeper look at our current programming and to see how we can do better and how to deepen our engagement with the community nearby and far away. 

Starting with hosting several focus groups that invite community members here to our space and for us to understand their perceptions of the museum and what we can do to be better and to do better and to invite more people through our doors. I think it's really crucial to first and foremost understand the community's needs and hear their thoughts and suggestions on how we can improve. 

For example, we have our rooftop garden. The garden was truly a community effort from beginning to end. At its Inception we had a town hall to gauge our community's feedback on what they'd like to see in the garden space. Once the garden was built, we collected oral histories from local gardeners and they talked about why gardening is an important cultural practice to them. They also graciously donated seeds from their own gardens, so most of the plants we feature are connected to actual people in our community. The rooftop garden was so successful that it serves now as the blueprint for how we do our community engagement moving forward. 

Another thing that we recently started, again just a simple tweak, was something called the Dearborn Fine Arts Club. It is a space where we just invite artists from our community to come to the space and to showcase their art. They also have the opportunity to sell their art. And it's also a space for art collectors and art enthusiasts alike to buy art and to just enjoy the beautiful landscape of artistry and artists that we have here. 

And so I think, because of my role and because of just the little changes that we have been able to do, we have been able to reach people where they're at. We were able to infuse that community engagement component to every aspect of our programming, which has made it a hundred times better. 

So thank you again to The Wallace foundation for allowing us to do this work and to deepen our community engagement



BlackStar is working to create a new paradigm for nonprofit arts organizations and deepen the impact of its work without competing with other Black-, Brown-, and Indigenous-led organizations.


Maori Karmael Holmes: My name is Maori Karmael Holmes and I'm the founder of BlackStar projects. At BlackStar, we create spaces and resources to uplift the work of Black, Brown and Indigenous artists working in the fields of film and visual culture.

Imran Siddiquee: BlackStar was founded in 2012 as a film festival celebrating the visual and storytelling traditions of the African diaspora. It has since expanded to include the work of Black, Brown, and Indigenous artists all around the world, with panels, parties, and trainings reaching audiences globally.

Sydney Alicia Rodriguez: BlackStar's community is comprised of culture creators, change makers, and innovators, all artists who see themselves and their practice as a gift beyond representation. In 2020, BlackStar evolved into a robust organization with year-round signature programming. Some of our programs include Scene, which is our printed journal of visual culture, the William and Louise Greaves filmmaker seminar, an annual multi-day gathering and educational space for emerging and mid-career filmmakers, and the Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab, a year-long fellowship that supports filmmakers in the Greater Philadelphia area, just to name a few.

Most importantly, as we grew, we wanted to create a new nonprofit paradigm. The strategic challenge we are hoping to understand is how to deepen the impact of our work without competing with other Black, Brown, and Indigenous led organizations, or falling into the status quo of the extractive nonprofit model.

We will defy the traditional nonprofit model that does not center care or equity at the forefront of all its work. And we will connect artists of color globally, most of whom live at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, with each other with audiences and with funders.

Imran Siddiquee: Through all this, BlackStar is building a liberatory world, in which a vast spectrum of Black, Brown, and Indigenous experiences are irresistibly celebrated in arts and culture.

Chicago Sinfonietta


Chicago Sinfonietta is working to push the boundaries of classical music by bringing in new voices and expanding programs out to communities that are often ignored by traditional classical arts organizations.


Hello, I'm Blake Anthony Johnson, president and CEO of Chicago Sinfonietta. Chicago is a city pulsating with life and at his heart lives an orchestra on a relentless mission. At the Chicago Sinfonietta, we are more than just musicians. We are architects of change. Through diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, we bring communities together to revel in the vibrant musical colors of our city.

Traditionally, classical music has elevated the same voices and catered to a select few. But here at Chicago Sinfonietta, we forge paths beyond tradition. We were born from the embers of exclusion, and for almost four decades, we have dared to reshape the classical music canon while expanding the symphonic music audience through community- based programming.

Our mission is simple and audacious: to elevate artists to expand and diversify our audiences, and to challenge the foundations of centuries old tradition. And thanks to the support of The Wallace Foundation, we can begin systemic change that challenges the status quo.

First, we journey into the heart of overlooked communities and high-need populations, expanding our community initiatives like never before. And secondly, we codify their voices by including them in our infrastructure of audience connection and development. And lastly, we do this work with humility, curiosity, and artful ambition.

Take a moment to imagine this transformation. A classical music audience that truly reflects our multi-generational society and culture. For our youth, we become that crucial third space, a refuge between school and home, where they can learn to thrive. For individuals, families, and everyone in between, we're that can't-miss-it night of excitement with friends and a space to share bold symphonic experiences.

A Chicago Sinfonietta concert is more than just the music. It's a celebration of communities connecting with each other for a night of joy and transformation. Chicago Sinfonietta is a place where everyone is welcomed in the heart of this great city. From all of us at Chicago Sinfonietta, we thank you.

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture

Charlotte, N.C.

The Gantt Center is developing an artist’s residency and a collective for Black artists to promote creativity and strengthen its community in Charlotte, N.C.


Hey, Wallace family.

Nicole: This is the Harvey B. Gantt Center. My name's Nicole.

Afeni: My name is Afeni

Aja: And my name is Aja.

Nicole: We are an institution that celebrates and preserves excellence in Black art and culture through three galleries in our space and several community center programs and educational initiatives. 

Aja: As Charlotte becomes a metropolitan city of many transplants, we are challenged to meet the ever evolving needs of our community and local artists. How we serve and unite multi-generations and mobilize emerging Black artists is critical to both our resilience and relevance in the changing dynamics of our society.

The framework of the Gantt’s Initiative for Equity and Innovation, or I.E.I., underpins our community orientation, regardless of the landscape changes. Through the art, I.E.I. addresses unconscious bias, discrimination and social injustice, which allows us to support the advancement of the careers and practices of our community artists.

Afeni: So the thesis that we presented to Wallace for organizational and community wellness was, if our communities’ artists are thriving, they will contribute greatly to a thriving community. So our institutional relevance hinges on our social-justice themed exhibitions, educational and programmatic efforts. It is vital to us to contribute to a cultural workforce that advances the development of emerging artists, form a more culturally competent community via transformative creative equity experiences.

So as a result of this, our project became the Black Carolina Artist Residency and the Black Carolina Collective. So we work to support a thriving community in two ways. Through the residency and through this collective of Black artists in the Carolinas. We envision these projects will yield a talented workforce of highly developed artists and community leaders to execute those experiences that advance a more equitable society, which in our eyes equals a more thriving society.

So a few of the main objectives of this project are regional artistic development for artists from a lens of equity and social justice, a comprehensive understanding of the business aspects of being a thriving artist—and this is for our artists in the collective and in the residency. We hope to cultivate more active community leaders through community art-based projects and programs that are infused in the residency.

So to give a little bit more context, as part of the Black Carolina Residency design, the five artists in the cohort will each lead their own community projects. So this includes uplifting a part of the community that the Gantt serves through art, cultural education, hands on art, and/or performance. So it's up to the passions and the decisions of the artists in the cohort.

And so these projects, that our artists lead, will involve prolonged community engagement for maximized impact. And this is an intentional alignment with the Gantt’s 50th—we turn 50 this year in 2024. And we launched the Black Carolina Residency and the Collective as a way to invest in a more strong community of Black artists for a sustainable ecosystem for the next 50 years.

Aja: And we hope to learn from our measurable outcomes that indicate we are headed in the right direction of building creative experiences for our community. As a result, by cultivating artists and engagement in our education and programmatic initiatives, we will also see an increase in development of the content for our exhibition.

Nicole: What does that future look like? During our four years in the implementation of the residency program, we have four successful residency cohorts. This evolution of the residency will be determined by the outcomes, feedback, and the impact of the residency. We hope to serve as a model for other community partners and other institutions in supporting private artists. 

Thank you, Wallace. Thank you so much for your support.



PHILADANCO!, a fifty-year-old institution, is putting in place structures to help ensure it can continue to thrive for the next fifty years and beyond.


In the city's Powelton section sits a building that's unassuming on the outside but on the inside is the future of dance.

Joan Myers Brown: Hi, I'm Joan Myers Brown, founder and currently the artistic advisor for PHILADANCO!, an organization I started in 1970. I've been trying to transition, trying to move out and move over for the longest amount of time. This opportunity from The Wallace Foundation makes it really easy for us to move ahead and make sure that the transition is something that we can be proud of and that works for all of us. We want to thank the Wallace Foundation.

Juliette Hyson: Hi, my name is Juliette Hyson and I am PHILADANCO!'s development consultant. We are so proud to have been part of this cohort of 18 member organizations with the Wallace Foundation. The Wallace Foundation is allowing us to have the time and resources to work through this transition of Joan Myers Brown as the founder of PHILADANCO! to the new leadership team that's going to take the organization into the future. We appreciate having this cohort with us where many of the members are going through some of the same issues that we are, and we appreciate the resources and the time to try to get this transition right and build the best foundation we can for PHILADANCO! for the future.

Pillsbury House + Theatre


Pillsbury House + Theatre is working to reestablish itself as the Pillsbury Creative Commons, an all-in-one hub for art, community and economic development in South Minneapolis


On Chicago Avenue, in the heart of South Minneapolis, is a place like no other. A crossroads of culture overflowing. Here, generations strive and thrive, despite a long history of disinvestment. Here, struggle and pain are transformed into revolutionary action. Here, solutions are invented and reinvented at the speed of the need.

For more than 30 years, here is where Pillsbury House + Theatre has been nurtured by our dynamic community. Now, we're opening a new chapter.

Pillsbury Creative Commons is an all-in plan for community transformation. A shared home for more than 50,000 residents of Minnesota's most diverse neighborhood, where artists work side by side with those most affected by systemic inequities, together weaving art, creativity, and opportunity into the community fabric.

PCC unites everything for a vibrant community under one roof. A state-of-the-art theater for artists and stories missing from the mainstream. A community radio station to amplify diverse voices and cultures. Intensive career training that sparks ambition and opens doors. Space for artists to teach and incubate ideas with neighbors. Room to celebrate, organize, and build community relationships. And essential services that keep residents thriving.

Here is our opportunity to dream boldly, because we know how. Here is how. Pillsbury Creative Commons.

Rebuild Foundation


Rebuild Foundation is working to create the infrastructure for a locally run, locally led, lasting hub of culture and creativity on the South Side of Chicago.


I created the organization because there was a lack of cultural activities that I wanted to do on the South Side of Chicago.

I had moved to this neighborhood, that's called Grand Crossing, and I found myself, you know, kind of young and participating in cultural activity. But none of those cultural activities that I was participating in were like immediate, immediately around me. What I found is that there are still so few models of locally run, locally led cultural institutions in our cities around the country.

And I think Rebuild is one of, one of the few institutions, in the city of Chicago at least, that is saying these things, and the people, and the artists, the creatives who live among us are doing some of the most Innovative work in the world. And they deserve to be amplified. They deserve to be highlighted. They deserve the resources necessary to do the great work they want to do. And that amplification work, that platform work, is one of the ways that we talk about equity.

It's really quite impossible to say how important the Wallace resources has been. You know, normally when you get a grant, you get a grant for a year. It helps you a little bit. But we really were at a major point of change in the organization, where we needed a tremendous amount of infrastructural support. And the resources that they've given us has allowed us to think together about the future, create the infrastructure that we need, and we're continuing to create that infrastructure, so that our development team and our communications team our PR, so that we could say to the world more about what we're up to.

Most philanthropic organizations want to support the programmatic activity. And if the administrative costs associated with running those programs are too high, they might also give you a smack on the wrist. Wallace has been invested in our administration and operations from the beginning. And that support, which is often the more difficult aspects of the fundraising that we have to do, that support from a foundation like Wallace, has been very important, because it also says to our local peers that what we're doing in the nation matters.

So I I feel like having that that additional support, which we can also say, like, ‘Hey, we need expertise in financing structure or in marketing expertise. We'd like to have more support around our HR activities.’ That those are things where, like, in addition to any financial investment, they can also share their network with us.

I think rebuild also is not interested in being a great institution, it's interested in making great culture happen. And so there are times when we have to hack or disrupt the ways in which the world expects for institutions to work in a Black neighborhood. And we try to, we try to call that innovation. We call it social innovation. But really, it's just like looking at what the real opportunities are, who the great amazing people are in a place. And then by celebrating them, it means that sometimes the tactics that we use in order to manifest culture might look unorthodox. And that, that way of working has really served us well, because it allows us to be pioneering.

It also takes the institutional anxiety away that we have permission to grow, and change, and articulate that change that's happening with an ally who will be with us for the next five years. And so it's quite an honor to receive a Wallace grant but I couldn't be more thankful that I feel like have gained friends as a result of the support that they've given us.

Self-Help Graphics & Art

Los Angeles

Self-Help Graphics & Art is working to better understand the assets that have helped it establish itself as a cultural institution in Los Angeles and laying the foundation for the years ahead.


Hello, hola.

My name is Jennifer Cuevas, and I'm the executive director of Self-Help Graphics & Art, a Chicano and Latinx legacy, visual, and multidisciplinary arts organization based in the Los Angeles community of Boyle Heights.

Over the last few years, we have been on a journey as an organization to transform our mindset from one of precarity to one of abundance, and to continue to develop a culture that honors our history, supports a future that centers our values, and fosters a culture of wellness for our staff and the community at large that we serve.

With generous funding from the Wallace Foundation, we are working with our staff, our board, and our community of artists through intentional convenings to better understand what it is that makes us a successful, place-based culture producer and culture keeper, and how we can lean in on the institutional knowledge of those before us to inform our future.

The framework that we are building with our team are our guiding principles for how Self-Help Graphics move forward with regard to our daily operations, organizational and fiscal health, and with regard to the relationship with the communities that we serve.

This work has called in staff artists, current and former youth program participants, community partners, cultural workers and current and former board members to contribute their diverse perspectives, to share their critical institutional knowledge and memory, as well as an understanding of the many needs of our community today, and how we can best orient ourselves within our creative mission to serve those needs.

And as we look into our future, and continue to build on this cultural transformation work, we want to ensure that the documentation and sharing out of our practices and pedagogies is done in a way that is created for and accessible to our community.

In addition to the cultural transformation work that is being created as part of our grant is the ability to connect with peer organizations within our cohort, and to network and share the knowledge amongst ourselves.

Also to have access to vital consultants that are supporting our infrastructure, helping us to develop best practices finance and to support our overall fiscal health, as well as share, tips and tricks and things that help us with fundraising and development has been just very important and vital aspect of this cultural transformation work. This is a very unique experience for us and to be able to have experts at the table to hold us in this way for an organization that has never had this type of investment in more than 50 years is really special to us.

So want to say that this is a beautiful experience and we are becoming a better, stronger and more united organization through this work.

So we are very thankful for Wallace’s investment in our community and look forward to sharing what the future holds for our organization. Thank you.

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