In September 2020, the Ford Foundation announced an unprecedented national initiative to support Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous arts organizations throughout the country. America’s Cultural Treasures brought together 16 major foundations, which together committed $156 million to a two-pronged national and regional effort.
The national component of the initiative provided $81 million in direct grants to an initial cohort of 20 organizations that are significant national anchors for artistic and cultural diversity in America. The National Museum of Mexican Art, based in Chicago, received one of these grants (hear more about it in this video blog from Executive Director Carlos Tortolero).
The regional component of the initiative provided $5 million in seed funding to each of seven regional grantmaking efforts – one of which is based in Chicago and led by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art, and Walder Foundation. Together, these local funders committed an additional $11.75 million in matching funds and designed an effort that supports cultural organizations that have contributed to the history, vibrancy, and identity of Chicago.
The Chicago team is working with an independent nonprofit, IFF, to create programming, including a participatory grantmaking process, for this initiative. IFF is a mission-driven and community-focused financial institution that has provided leadership, capital, and real estate solutions to nonprofits in Chicago for more than 30 years.
Working together, IFF and the Chicago funders group are focused on serving the many BIPOC arts and culture institutions that have long served as neighborhood anchors, sustained cultural traditions, built community, and helped ensure that experiences are shared and heard. They have achieved this deep community impact despite historically limited resources and funding streams – something Chicago’s Cultural Treasures hopes other arts philanthropists and corporations will join us in changing.
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