Sixteen major donors and foundations, including Getty, announced an unprecedented commitment to a two-pronged national and regional initiative to recognize “America’s Cultural Treasures.” Together, the funders will grant more than $156 million to support Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous arts organizations in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated America’s arts and culture landscape. The funding includes $85 million from the proceeds of the Ford Foundation’s historic social bond offering announced earlier this year.

The foundations identified grant recipients as “America’s Cultural Treasures” to acknowledge and honor their vital contributions to the diversity of expression and excellence in America, and to bring greater recognition to a group of organizations that have been impactful, despite historically limited resources and funding streams. They, along with others, represent the cultural heritage and creativity of communities that have been historically marginalized, underfunded and under-represented in the narrative of American culture.

Led by an initial investment of $50 million from the Ford Foundation — with leadership support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and Barbara and Amos Hostetter, and additional support from the Abrams Foundation, Alice L. Walton Foundation, and Tom and Lisa Blumenthal — the national component of the initiative will provide $81 million in operational and general support funds to an initial cohort of 20 organizations that are significant national anchors for artistic and cultural diversity in America.

The 20 organizations are: Alaska Native Heritage Center, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Apollo Theater, Arab American National Museum, Ballet Hispanico, Charles H. Wright Museum, Dance Theater of Harlem, East West Players, El Museo del Barrio, Japanese American National Museum, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Museum of Chinese in the Americas, Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, National Museum of Mexican Art, Penumbra Theatre, Project Row Houses, Studio Museum in Harlem, Urban Bush Women, and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.

National grants will range in size from $1 to 6 million, representing a significant portion of each institution’s operating budget. In addition to the grant funds each grantee will receive up to $100,000 for organizational capacity building — particularly in key areas including digital strategies and other needs.

The increased commitment in general operating funds will enable these organizations to build on their decades of leadership and remain resilient and durable in the face of the unprecedented economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The donors hope this initial investment will catalyze conversation and increased giving to Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous arts organizations.

Ford’s contribution to America’s Cultural Treasures makes the foundation one of the largest funders of arts and creative expression in the U.S., with more than $205 million in grantmaking planned over the next year.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, said, “These organizations represent the very highest ideals of artistic excellence and are truly America’s cultural treasures. We hope that other arts philanthropists and corporations will join in increasing support to the many cultural organizations that reflect our nation’s rich and diverse history.”

“This initiative fills an urgent need, as the pandemic threatens so many vitally important arts organizations of color across the country,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP and three-term mayor of New York City. “Together with the Ford Foundation and its many partners, we’re glad to help ensure that America’s cultural treasures and the essential, innovative artistic traditions they steward can withstand the current crisis – and thrive in the future.”

“We can learn so much about our country’s history and cultural heritage through the eyes of artists. This initiative is a commitment to preserving access to diverse and important perspectives and the arts organizations who support them,” said Alice Walton.

Investing in Regional Arts Organizations

As the second component of the America’s Cultural Treasures initiative, numerous foundations will drive fundraising and design for individually-tailored regional grantmaking initiatives, which will be seeded by an initial $35 million in support from the Ford Foundation across seven regions. The foundation partners will provide matching funds for multi-year grants and other supports to cultural groups of color with exceptional regional or local significance. Those foundations include the Barr Foundation (Massachusetts), Getty Foundation (Los Angeles), Heinz Endowments (Pittsburgh), Houston Endowment (Houston), John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (Chicago), Joyce Foundation (Chicago), McKnight Foundation (Minnesota), The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation (Los Angeles), Terra Foundation for American Art (Chicago), and William Penn Foundation (Philadelphia).

The scope and recipients of local programs will be announced in early 2021 and more cities and regions will be added as funders join this effort.

“BIPOC arts organizations represent the vitality and diversity of the Los Angeles region, yet have been undercapitalized for years,” said Joan Weinstein, director of the Getty Foundation. “The arts give solace in difficult times, but they also challenge us to imagine and create a more just and equitable society. We are proud to partner with the Ford Foundation and lead the Los Angeles effort to make arts organizations of color that are the heartbeat of so many local communities more resilient for the future.”