As I listened to a webinar hosted by Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) on its report Annual Research on Support for Arts and Culture, I was relatively unsurprised to hear from Steven Lawrence of the Foundation Center that their research found the largest share of arts grants went to the performing arts (36.8 percent) and museums (27.6 percent).
These findings are consistent with those from NCRP’s Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change, a report for arts and culture funders from the High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy series, by veteran arts and culture strategic planner, program developer and fundraiser Holly Sidford. Sidford noted that while only 2 percent of arts and culture nonprofits have budgets greater than $5 million, they receive 55 percent of grants, contributions and gifts.
What might lie at the root of this significant imbalance in the distribution of funding for arts and artists?
America is coming of age. Note the many changing aspects of America. A maturing America means a nation conscious of its arts among all its people….in no other way can Americans so well express the core and blood of their democracy…in terms of American democracy, the arts are for everyone. They are not reserved for the wealthy, or for the well-endowed museum, the gallery, or the ever-subsidized regional professional theatre. As America emerges into a different understanding of her strength, it becomes clear that her strength is in the people and in the places where the people live….if we are seeking in America, let it be a seeking for the reality of democracy in art. ~ Robert E. Gard (1966), The Arts in the Small Community: A National Plan, p. 4.
Nearly fifty years ago, Robert E. Gard, Wisconsin community arts pioneer, challenged Americans to ensure our arts were for everyone, in every part of the country. The past two to three decades have seen great strides in diverse community-building, but it is still an unfinished conversation. How diverse are our art makers, leaders, audiences, funders, educators, and students? How equitable is funding for arts and culture? How accessible are the arts for every person living in the United States? Where are we succeeding, and where are our deepest challenges? As America indeed changes at a rapid pace, now is the time for communities nationwide to intentionally and thoughtfully investigate, evaluate, and set forth action agendas around the ideas of access and equity.