Native Arts and Cultures Foundation: A national leader supporting Indigenous artists and engaging
Founded in 2008, with start-up funding of $10 million from the Ford Foundation, NACF supports Indigenous artists, culture bearers, and Native-led arts organizations through fellowships and project funding. Betsy Theobald Richards (Cherokee), who served as Ford’s Program Officer in Media, Arts, and Culture from 2003 to 2010, provided key leadership in establishing NACF. Other Native leaders and artists were involved from the get-go: the civil rights lawyer Walter Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), poet and musician Joy Harjo (Muscokee-Creek), museum director and artist Elizabeth Woody (Yakama Nation Wasco descent and Citizen of Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs), and singer, artist, and educator Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree First Nation of Canada), among others. It’s powerful to have such dynamic and creative national and community-based leaders setting the stage for NACF’s work. The organization is currently in the early stages of developing a major cultural facility and new headquarters: the Center for Native Arts and Cultures in southeast Portland, Oregon, with a vision to create a “vibrant gathering place” for Indigenous artists as a convening ground for cultural ceremonies and celebrations; as an incubator for Native artists to create; and as a venue for presenting contemporary exhibitions and performances, workshops, and seminars.
You Need a Community to Build Your Community
The work of rebuilding community, or building community with new partners, cannot be done in isolation. Establishing a strong foundation by choosing to repair or deepen engagement with a specific community and focusing on what’s important to that community, not just your organization’s bottom line, is work best done with others.
Member Spotlight: Allyson Esposito
Executive Director of Creative Arkansas Community Hub & Exchange (CACHE) Allyson Esposito is an arts administrator, lawyer, and dancer with more than 12 years of change management experience in philanthropy. Launched in 2019, CACHE supports Northwest Arkansas’ creative community—elevating local creatives; connecting the region with world-renowned leaders; and developing robust, culturally diverse hubs to create. Current initiatives include providing financial support to nonprofits in the wake of COVID-19, a weekly online creative variety that deep-dives into the world of artists, and multiple programs that enrich the region’s music scene. CACHE acts as a proud ambassador of the culture-bearers, makers, entrepreneurs, and collectives to intersect our region with the world. 
How Processing COVID-19 as an Artist Transformed My Arts in Health Practice
No one living in New York last spring will forget the tension and the morbidity that enveloped the city when COVID-19 hit. In that period, all I heard were sirens and birds—an eerie silence for a metropolis that “never sleeps.” My roommates and I fully dealt with contracting the virus that April—from extreme fatigue and chest pressure, to headaches, fever, and the loss of taste and smell. In this milieu, I was attending virtual classes for my Arts in Health graduate certificate program, and observing my savings dwindle as work contracts and opportunities disappeared. While my body physically healed, feelings of uncertainty and anxiety overpowered me. Some days were an absolute struggle, but thankfully, I knew I wasn’t alone in my reaction and circumstances as many of my friends and peers were down and out. Even though all my work was canceled—including my first invitation to curate and co-produce a show in Manhattan — I knew I had to release what I was feeling.
A Letter From the Chair of Americans for the Arts
To all of those who champion and fight for the arts and cultural community in the United States; To all our members, our funders, our partners, and patrons who have generously supported Americans for the Arts; To the artists and arts professionals whom we represent: I have read your letters and comments over these last months as Americans for the Arts has faced challenges. Both I and other board members have talked with many of you directly. We have engaged thought leaders in the field for advice and wisdom as our organization grapples with dramatic change sweeping through society and our sector. We are committed to continuing this dialogue so that we can work together to find an equitable and sustainable future for Americans for the Arts. It would be easy to make incremental changes, but in order to catch up to the future, we know that what is now required is transformation.
Standing in Solidarity to Stop Violence Against Asian-Americans
On May 16, 2021, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) sponsored an important virtual panel discussion about the epidemic of hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and the need for allyship. The program was another installment of NJPAC’s Standing in Solidarity, a series of initiatives and events promoting racial equality and social justice. The series was launched in June of 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd to offer greater understanding of current racial disparities, as well as offer a forum for learning about the actions all citizens can take to advance the causes of equality and justice. NJPAC’s Social Justice Planning Task Force recognized that the resurgence of anti-AAPI violence was a critical issue to discuss and there was a dire need to help the broader community understand how they can become allies in the fight against this surging injustice. The panel was convened just as the results of a survey conducted by a new nonprofit found that 80 percent of Asian Americans “don’t feel respected and say they are discriminated against by their fellow Americans.”
Member Spotlight: Felicia Baca
Since the late 1970s, the Salt Lake City Arts Council has promoted, presented, and supported artists, arts organizations, and arts activities to further the development of the arts community and to benefit the public by expanding awareness, access, and participation. As director of the Arts Council, Felicia Baca acts as the chief arts and culture advocate for the city and oversees the development, promotion, implementation, support, and strengthening of creative programs and policy. “I’m an advocate, ambassador, and relationship-builder to elevate artists and art organizations in the city, while facilitating opportunities for residents to engage in the arts. My hope is to further the development of an arts ecosystem citywide that considers artists and arts engagement as essential for livability, equity, and economic development. Our Arts Council has a variety of functions, including granting, public art, and public programs. It all ties back to serving as an advocate for artists, and engaging residents in the many benefits of the arts.”
How America’s Arts Organizations Can Invest Their Values
Following the strong, public statements of solidarity with Black Lives Matter that cultural institutions across the country made in Summer 2020, museums, artist-endowed foundations, and other arts organizations began to look inward, identifying all the ways their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access can be lived in their day-to-day activities. This has prompted endowed cultural organizations to seriously evaluate whether their investment decisions reflect their values, and to begin the journey to align their money with mission and purpose. Such a reflection is a natural outgrowth of recent debates over accepting donations earned through the sale of opioids, fossil fuels, weapons, and the operation of private prisons. It also recognizes that Next Generation art donors and foundations that fund the arts—many of whom are impact investors themselves—are beginning to evaluate an arts organization’s investments alongside its programs and policies when deciding where to give. America’s museums, libraries, art schools, performing art centers, and other cultural institutions steward more than $58 billion in financial assets through their endowments. This means investment policies and practices offer a meaningful way for cultural institutions to signal their values of diversity, equity, inclusion and access.
Arts Spaces for Queer BIPOC during COVID: The Sound of Change
In the wake of a global pandemic, it is almost universally understood that there are innumerable factors from the past year that have made it difficult to indulge in our favorite art forms. These challenges also have highlighted inequities in the arts sector that can no longer be ignored. In the face of these inequities, artists have begun prioritizing their platform to combat these barriers and to help change the arts sector for the better. The Color of Music Collective, or COMC, is an example of a group of artists/arts patrons who are aware of these inequities and, in turn, seek to use their online platform to engage and dismantle inequitable systems in the music industry. When asked about the origins of the Color of Music Collective, Mia Van Allen, the founder of COMC, recalled her experience as an intern working in the music industry: “As a woman of color working in the (field) it was difficult to find representation.” This experience laid the groundwork for the birth of the collective. COMC is a new organization that developed last year during the pandemic—thus their experience as a collective is unique in that their programs have always been virtual with the intent of remaining as accessible as possible.
In the Wake of the Pandemic, Asian Americans Artists Confront Racism
Unleashed by anxiety over the pandemic, the nationwide rise in anti-Asian hate has served as a call to action for many Asian American artists to take a stand: To actively challenge the historic negative stereotype of the vice- and disease-ridden Yellow Peril; to dismantle the pernicious and divisive myth of the model minority that pits achievements by Asian Americas as judgements against other communities of color; and to advocate for social justice, equity, and inclusion for all. Located on opposite coasts, the work of photographer Mike Keo and multimedia artist Monyee Chau exemplify this new generation of Asian American activist-artists who are working within their respective communities to effect change. Both skillfully employ social media to raise awareness. Keo and Chau follow a long line of Asian American activist-artists and curators who deserve wider recognition. Most notably, in 1990 artists Ken Chu and Bing Lee and curator Margo Machida founded Godzilla: Asian American Art Network, an influential collective of artists and curators in New York City.
Member Spotlight: Jeremy Johnson
Since 2016, Jeremy Johnson has been executive director of Newark Arts, one of the city’s leading nonprofits. The organization makes grants to neighborhood arts programs, produces the award-winning Newark Arts Festival, and advocates for policies to uplift Newark as a city of the arts. During his tenure, Newark Arts has strengthened the city's cultural profile, including the 2020 ranking of Newark among America's Top 10 Arts-Vibrant Communities by the National Center for Arts Research. Johnson led the creation of Newark’s first community cultural plan, Newark Creates, which resulted in the city-sponsored Creative Catalyst Fund to support area artists impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.