Diving into Racial Equity: The MAP Fund’s Exploration looks at MAP’s deep examination of one of its foundational priorities—racial equity in arts and culture grantmaking—and ongoing efforts to change practices toward this goal. In this case study written by Vanessa Whang and published December 2019, learn how MAP is incorporating the framework Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change to help mitigate aesthetic bias in proposal review.
In 2015, MAP undertook what started as a technology system upgrade to “better enact anti-racist and anti-oppression values in the application itself.” This step turned into a broader and layered inquiry into many processes of its arts grantmaking. The case study follows MAP’s evolution to examine biases in its application platform, guidelines and requirements, applicant advisory supports and communications, and adjudication processes. It also chronicles MAP’s incorporation of the framework, Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change over multiple cycles to help mitigate aesthetic bias in the panel process. An evaluation revealed its usefulness in: opening up interpretation of MAP’s review criteria, offering a shared vocabulary for deepening discussion and moving decision-making forward, challenging individual preferences, biases, and prodding reviewers to move past “stuck thinking.”
Written to inform public and private funders who are addressing equity in their grantmaking, MAP Fund’s experiences can provide insights to: re-envision who reviews proposals and how they are chosen, orient and guide reviewers and panelists to be aware of bias, and consider alternative designs for application review that are more equitable.
Vanessa Whang is an Oakland-based researcher, program designer, evaluator, and thought partner to funders and organizations engaged with culture and arts, and their role in social change. Her work grapples with what a just society could look like in a diverse nation built on codified inequality and how a deeper understanding of culture is critical to imaging a new way forward. Vanessa’s clients have included the Akonadi, Barr, Doris Duke Charitable, and Ford foundations, Animating Democracy, the City of Oakland, Naturally-Occurring Cultural Districts-NY, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and others. She served as Director of Programs for California Humanities, responsible for strategic program design, development, and evaluation, and in DC, she was Director of Multidisciplinary Arts and Presenting for the National Endowment for the Arts. Vanessa has worked as a cultural activist, performing arts presenter, and a musician, and serves on the boards of the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts and The Whitman Institute, a trust-based funder for social good.
Americans for the Arts serves, advances, and leads the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America. Founded in 1960, Americans for the Arts is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education.
Launched in 1999, Animating Democracy is a program of Americans for the Arts that works to inspire, inform, promote, and connect arts as a contributor to community, civic, and social change.
The MAP Fund is a proud coalition partner behind Artist Relief, emergency funding and resources for artists affected by COVID-19.
Artist Relief was organized by the Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, YoungArts, and United States Artists. Artist Relief raised $25 million, beginning with seed funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and then an important lead gift from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
In total, Artist Relief distributed close to $23.4 million in emergency grants to 4,682 artists over 15 months. Artist Relief operated 13 cycles of funding from April 2020 to June 2021 that supported artists with $5,000 emergency relief grants.
In addition, Artist Relief worked with Americans for the Arts and Yancey Consulting on research efforts to allow us to better identify and address the needs of artists, and independent creative workers, moving forward.
In a remarkable demonstration of solidarity, dozens of national, artist-endowed and family foundations, field partners, and companies, and thousands of individuals that came together to invest in artists whose personal and professional lives were severely impacted by COVID-19. For a list of major Artist Relief funding partners please visit, artistrelief.org/partners.
In 2017, MAP was honored to initiate Equity in the Panel Room (EiPR). With a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, this project engaged consultant Ama Codjoe to design a robust research and learning program that led a group of 12 grantmakers through a yearlong, deep-dive into racial equity in the panel process. The group included:
Jordan Baylon, formerly of Calgary Arts Development
Pam Breaux, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
Francene J. Blythe former of Native Arts and Cultures Foundation
Moira Brennan, The MAP Fund
Emilya Cachapero, Theatre Communications Group
Gargi Shindé, Chamber Music America
Kathy Hsieh, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
Ken May, formerly of South Carolina Arts Commission
Tariana Navas-Nieves, Denver Arts & Venues
Jane Preston, New England Foundation for the Arts
Eleanor Savage, the Jerome Foundation
Dara Silver, Into the Arts
Operating out of the premise that panel moderators and administrators have a responsibility and an opportunity to understand their own practices and habits through the lens of racial equity, the group looked beyond the language of mission statements and examined the nuts and bolts of how they actually operate programs: panelist selection, moderator training/lack thereof, panel room atmosphere, and more.
The group met as a steering committee for one year, remotely and in person, for conversations, racial justice trainings, and—at the heart of it—for support in operationalizing equity practices in their organizations.
MAP is proud to share one result of the group’s work together: Re:Tool Racial Equity in the Panel Process, a handbook of experiences, tips and resources for grant administrators.
The EiPR cohort extends their efforts by offering workshops at conferences across the country, including Grantmakers in the Arts (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019); Alliance of Artists Communities (2018); National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (2018, 2019); and Americans for the Arts (2019).
MAP will continue to deepen field-wide understanding of racial equity in arts funding. We are in the planning stages of exciting new developments. Be sure to join our mailing list so we can keep you informed as we move forward.
Banner: MAP 2020 grantee Body As A Crossroads by Marina Magalhães, Emily Goulding, and Bianca Medina. Photography by Bobby Gordon.