The Wallace Foundation Awards nearly $3M in Research Grants to 11 Arts and Culture, Community Development, and Research Organizations Rooted in Communities of Color
NEW YORK, November 17, 2023 – Today, The Wallace Foundation announced 11 new grantees selected to participate in the research-focused component of its ongoing arts initiative focused on arts organizations founded by, with, and for communities of color. The following organizations have been awarded a total of $2.8 million to conduct their own research on issues relevant to the well-being of arts organizations of color and the communities they serve: Camden FireWorks, Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, Critical Ecology Lab, Kyoung’s Pacific Beat, Latinx Theatre Commons, Media and Data Equity Lab at Northwestern University, Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, Silk Road Rising, and Support Oakland Artists.
Selected through requests for proposals (RFPs), each organization will receive funding to lead the planning, implementation, or expansion of individual research projects of their own concept and design. The projects explore a range of topics, including challenging traditional metrics for measuring thriving arts ecosystems and economies to better reflect the aspirations of artist communities of color; developing methods for writing and archiving Latinx theater and performance histories; illuminating the ways in which historical, environmental, and biochemical data can inform artists’ engagement and contributions to the well-being of their communities; and many other questions.
These projects—in addition to the ongoing research studies led by the eight Field Studies program grantees announced in May of this year—are part of a body of nearly 50 research projects Wallace is funding over the five years of its ongoing arts initiative. Funded by Wallace in recognition of a historical lack of investment in arts organizations of color and the under-documentation of their contributions, these projects are designed to answer questions pertinent to the field, and ultimately to advance practice, inform policy, and help build thriving communities.
“The Wallace Foundation is honored to support these organizations to ask and answer questions that are meaningful to them, and to other arts organizations in the sector. We believe collectively these studies, along with others we are funding, will expand public and private community stakeholders’ understanding of the vital role these organizations play for their constituencies,” said Bronwyn Bevan, Vice President of Research at The Wallace Foundation.
“In its approach to these research grants, Wallace is listening to the needs of the field and equipping organizations with the space and support they need to explore issues that affect them firsthand,” shared Mina Matlon, Wallace’s Consultant Research Officer in the Arts. “From Black feminist narrative inquiry, cultural mapping, critical ecology, and much more, these projects will embrace equity-focused research approaches that are directly informed by the communities they seek to uplift.”
The projects of these 11 grantees reflect three strands of research:
- Field Studies: Representing a diverse range of artistic disciplines, geographic locations, and communities served across the field, arts service organizations committed to advancing communities of color collaborate with researchers on studies designed to bring depth, breadth, and perspective to the nature of the ecosystem of nonprofit arts organizations of color and their communities.
- Community Cultural Development (CCD): Community development organizations founded by, with, and for communities of color conduct studies in partnership with researchers to produce insights into the spectrum of community cultural development approaches that support the well-being of communities of color through the arts.
- Research-Practice Partnerships (RPPs) with Arts Organizations of Color: Scholars and research teams work in partnership with arts organizations of color to address shared questions of interest and importance to the field and to scholarship. These grants include early career scholars from a wide variety of disciplines to encourage and expand interest in conducting research in the context of the arts and culture.
These research projects are just one component of Wallace’s five-year, $104 million arts initiative, launched in 2021, through which the foundation is partnering with arts organizations founded by, for, and with communities of color to advance their well-being, enhance understanding of their contributions to community, and ultimately to help build a more equitable and sustainable arts ecosystem. In May of 2022, Wallace selected 18 organizations with budgets above $500,0000 for the first phase of the initiative; these organizations are carrying out individual projects designed to advance their organizational well-being, gathering insights along the way. A future phase of the initiative will support studies related to the goals and activities of a wide array of smaller arts organizations of color with budgets below $500,000, executed in partnership with regional arts organizations and arts service organizations across the country.
About the Grantees and Their Research Projects
Camden FireWorks, Camden, New Jersey
Located in a renovated and rehabilitated firehouse, Camden FireWorks is a Black-integrated community-based arts nonprofit that uses art to create social change. Connecting artists with the local community, Camden FireWorks puts together collaborations and community programming such as exhibitions and communal gatherings while also providing support to artists through grants and affordable studio space.
Camden FireWorks will partner with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to design a study that seeks to challenge traditional metrics for determining a thriving or vital arts ecosystem and bring to the fore cultural indicators that reflect the aspirations of the Black artist community in cities like Camden. Through extensive conversations with artists from the Camden community to refine research questions, approach, and instruments, the study will contribute to Camden’s understanding of its arts and culture economies and establish a foundation for future research projects exploring alternative models for arts economies to reflect the cultural perspectives of artists who live, work, and demonstrate their resilience in economically challenged communities.
"It is not an overstatement to say that we are thrilled to be a Field Studies grantee of the Wallace Foundation. As a relatively young organization, Camden FireWorks prides itself on our relational approach to truly being in community with Camden, NJ artists,” said Asiyah Kurtz, Executive Director of Camden FireWorks. “To have found a funding partner who not only understands our project, but also the Black feminist framework we use, means that we do not have to change who we are as an organization to engage in this work."
Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (CCC), San Francisco, California
The Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (CCC) is an art and culture institution based in San Francisco’s Chinatown dedicated to elevating underserved communities and giving voice to equality through education and contemporary art via projects, exhibitions, community engagement initiatives, and creative place-making approaches.
Despite increasing recognition of the arts' contributions to community and individual development, there is a lack of focus on understanding the practices and strategies employed by arts and culture organizations of color to weather crises and how they can create lasting changes. With researchers, Dr. Yifan Xu and Xiaoxiao Bao, CCC will design a mixed-methods study that investigates CCC’s public programming, artist services, partnerships, and advocacy as critical to the organization’s resilience. The planning project will produce a full research plan examining how these arts service organizations can cope with crises and create structural changes through three areas of organizational resilience inspired by CCC's practice, which includes sustained engagement, cross-sector partnership, and safe spaces.
"San Francisco's Chinatown is the most historic Chinatown in America and one of the most influential in the world," says CCC Executive Director Jenny Leung. "As a longstanding artistic anchor, the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco is thrilled to be selected for the Wallace Foundation's Field Studies program to contribute knowledge on equity and neighborhood-based practices. This is a long overdue and overlooked arena. We are grateful to the Wallace Foundation for spearheading this critical initiative and look forward to sharing models and learnings with the field of arts and service organizations of color that are also deeply rooted in communities to thrive."
Latinx Theatre Commons, United States
The Latinx Theatre Commons is a national movement that works to transform the narrative of the American theater, amplify the visibility of Latinx performance making, and champion equity through advocacy, artmaking, convening, and scholarship.
The Latinx Theatre Commons will partner with researchers at University of Maryland, UC San Diego, and the University of Miami to develop a white paper outlining a research plan for archiving Latinx theatre and performance history for the field. The report will address gaps in published scholarship and strategies for disseminating information by examining current challenges and needs around ensuring the creation and sustainability of a robust Latinx theatre archive. The research team will analyze the current landscape of various theatre archives, draft forward-looking strategies for Latinx theatre archives, and generate an action plan for writing a methodologically innovative Latinx theatre history, intended to also serve as a model for other historically marginalized theatre sectors.
National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, San Antonio, Texas
The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) delivers programs and resources that stabilize and revitalize the U.S. Latino arts and cultural sector with its multigenerational, multiethnic, and interdisciplinary community of Latino artists and nonprofits spanning urban and rural communities.
In partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago, NALAC will replicate and expand on its 2019 State of Latino Arts & Culture Organizations, a national assessment of the Latino arts and culture field. The contributions of thousands of Latino artists and organizations in the U.S. remain unknown and underrepresented in the systems, structures, and research that support the mainstream arts sector today. This research expansion project is intended to advance the needs and raise the visibility of Latino arts and culture organizations. The project will include field surveying and analysis and will result in the development of an interactive website and digital advocacy toolkit, allowing stakeholders to access the findings and effectively use the information to advance the important work of Latinx arts and cultural organizations.
"We are thrilled to receive the Wallace Foundation's support to expand on our previous research! With this opportunity, we are eager to deepen the conversations we have been having with the thousands of Latinx arts organizations across the United States," said NALAC Interim President & CEO F. Javier Torres-Campos.
Silk Road Rising, Chicago, Illinois
The Chicago-based and community-centered artmaking and arts service organization Silk Road Rising is rooted in Pan-Asian, North African, and Muslim experiences and uses storytelling, digital media, and arts education to cultivate new narratives, challenge disinformation, and promote a culture of continuous learning.
Silk Road Rising will partner with researchers Roaa Ali, University of Manchester (UK), and Nour Halabi, University of Aberdeen (Scotland, UK) to examine the role and impact of arts service organizations in shaping the American Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) theatre community over the last two decades. The study will contribute to the growing body of research on historically marginalized SWANA arts service organizations and their relationship to their communities. Employing a cultural mapping method, Silk Road Rising will visually map out its networks, influence, and impact and engage in conversations with SWANA theatre makers to identify community needs and cultural resources that can be addressed by arts service organizations.
"Our research will use cultural mapping to illuminate the intricate network of relationships and actions that continue to build the American SWANA theatre sector,” said Jamil Khoury, Founding Co-Executive Artistic Director at Silk Road Rising. “We know that now more than ever, SWANA artmakers and community organizers seek strength in community. This project advances our efforts to historize and futurize an arts ecosystem that is integral to the power and well-being of our cultures and communities."
Community Cultural Development (CCD) Program
Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture), Utica, Mississippi
The Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, also known as Sipp Culture, is a Utica, MS-based nonprofit that supports community from the ground up through cultural production focused on self-determination and agency. Working at the intersection of food and story to support community development in the rural south, Sipp Culture serves as an approach and resource for cultivating thriving communities.
Sipp Culture is partnering with researchers at RISE Research & Evaluation and the Center for Africana Studies at Indiana University Indianapolis to explore how artists can serve as, and also support, community health workers to enhance the health and wellness of the rural Black community of Utica. Using qualitative and community-based participatory research approaches, the team will collect and analyze oral histories of fellow Utica residents to develop culturally responsive and arts-centered health worker training approaches.
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, Oakland, California and Washington, D.C.
The National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) is a nonprofit working to advance equity and create healthy neighborhoods by mobilizing and strengthening Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) community-based organizations.
With researchers from the University of Washington, Rutgers University, and the University of Arizona as partners, National CAPACD will explore how community arts initiatives expand a community's capacity to address socioeconomic, cultural well-being, and historical and structural disparities facing AA and NHPI communities. The research team will use a mixed-methods, asset-based, and participatory approach to conduct a survey on current community arts initiatives and select case studies sites for a more in-depth study.
National CAPACD CEO Seema Agnani shared, “Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders are witnessing, rapidly and dramatically, changes in their neighborhoods that are the centuries-old living account of immigrant survival, resilience, and celebration. In response, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander arts and community development organizations have long practiced an asset-based approach that utilizes arts and culture for cultivating community social cohesion, building awareness of and organizing around changing social policy, driving economic development, and solving place-based challenges. National CAPACD is grateful for the Wallace Foundation investing in research that helps us to better understand and document how arts initiatives can support the well-being of and cultivate places of belonging for communities of color.”
Support Oakland Artists, Oakland, California
Support Oakland Artists (SOA) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on utilizing the arts as a community development lever, enhancing local artists’ ability to thrive, and increasing community participation in cultural activities.
Support Oakland Artists will partner with Creative Development Partners, East Oakland Black Cultural Zone Collaborative, and research organization Storied Light Consulting to conduct a study that uses interviews, surveys, observations, social network mapping, and an interactive media platform to collect data exploring how gentrified spaces are impacting Black public art, Black identity, and Black economic development. The study will be used to inform the creation of a network of cultural hubs in East Oakland with learnings disseminated to partners, community stakeholders, and academic scholars through journal articles, publicly available reports, and town halls.
"We are incredibly excited to do a deep dive into the work of uncovering and uplifting the wonderfully unique and powerful nature of the cultural arts in Oakland to literally build communities, and to share our findings in the hopes that other historically Black communities under siege can leverage and adapt promising practices specific to their localities,” said SOA Founder and Executive Director Randolph Belle.
Research Practice Partnerships (RPP)
Critical Ecology Lab, Oakland, California
The Critical Ecology Lab utilizes scientific training, creative practices, and lived experiences to question and inform the public about the role of invisible, unjust systems that shape our world have brought on the current environmental crises.
Critical Ecology Lab will partner with the Public History Project/Price Institute-Rutgers at Newark and ArtChangeUS: Arts in a Changing America to develop a study that equips artists to address the colonial, ecological, and extractive histories of the Lower Connecticut, Long Island, New York City, and Northern New Jersey estuarial bioregion. The proposed study, which is intended to contribute to a growing body of research that bridges environmental crises and settler colonialism, will explore how historical, ecological, and biogeochemical datasets and findings can be deployed by artists to enrich their artistic practices and their contributions to their communities’ well-being.
“Ecological Justice depends on our collaboratively and creatively working across our social, cultural, community, and academic siloes to decolonize the fallacies we still live by,” said Jack Tchen, Clement A. Price Professor of Public History and Humanities, Rutgers-Newark & Co-founder, Public History Project.
Kyoung’s Pacific Beat, Brooklyn, New York
Kyoung’s Pacific Beat is a peacemaking theater company based in Brooklyn, New York that centers stories of (im)migration, queerness, identity, and the ways these intersect in communities of color to transform experiences of oppression into peace messages through public performance.
Kyoung’s Pacific Beat will be partnering with an interdisciplinary team of researchers to develop a research plan to better understand the aesthetics, structural barriers, and conditions necessary for peacemaking theater to thrive throughout the United States. This research is intended to contribute to an emerging but under-theorized topic, in both research and practice, at the intersection of peacebuilding and the arts.
The organization said, "Kyoung's Pacific Beat is grateful for The Wallace Foundation's support of our research. For ten years, we've been experimenting at the intersections of devised theater and community-based theater advancing a culture of peace. This grant is a transformational opportunity for us to contextualize our work within the long history of theaters of color rooted in social movements advancing non-violence and racial justice. We look forward to learning from our elders, peers, and emerging research to uplift the aesthetics of this practice while addressing the systemic barriers our work faces in the field."
Media and Data Equity (MADE) Lab at Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois
Northwestern University’s Media and Data Equity (MADE) Lab is a research lab focusing on inequity in media and technology systems and experimenting with cultivating equitable systems.
MADE Lab will work in partnership with Open Television (OTV) and Detroit Narrative Agency (DNA) to document barriers to film and media employment equity in the Midwest. MADE Lab will develop a database that offers pay transparency and connections to resources for diverse storytellers and craftspeople in the Midwest, a region where independent—as well as commercial film and television production—has increased significantly over the past two decades and where there has been little academic or industry research on efforts to bring equity to film and television.
About The Wallace Foundation
The Wallace Foundation’s mission is to foster equity and improvements in learning and enrichment for young people, and in the arts for everyone. Wallace works nationally, with a focus on the arts, K-12 education leadership and youth development. In all of its work, Wallace seeks to benefit both its direct grantees as well as the fields in which it works by developing and broadly sharing relevant, useful knowledge that can improve practice and policy. For more information, please visit the Foundation’s Knowledge Center at wallacefoundation.org.