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Atlanta's Black Arts Response to Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta
What follows is a letter sent on behalf of the Black arts community to the Community Foundation on June 4th in response to the omission of Black arts groups from $580,000 in arts fund grant making. Thanks to our advocacy, the Foundation is reevaluating their application process for the remaining funds in the 2020 cycle according to their post on May 29th - https://cfgreateratlanta.org/2020/05/29/we-hear-you/.

Metro Atlanta's Black arts community sat down with Alicia Philipp (CEO), Susan Grant (Board Chair) and Lita Pardi (VP Community) on June 10th via Zoom to discuss their oversight and set forth recommendations for immediate and long-term next steps. We demand that at minimum an equivalent amount of funding be awarded to Black arts organizations and that application requirements that automatically disqualify Black applicants are modified. The Foundation agreed to eliminate the audit/financial review requirement but we are awaiting to hear their position on the $50,000 budget minimum and full-time W-2 employee requirement. We also asked that a Black task force be convened to set forth an equity agenda for the arts fund that prioritizes Black leaders and organizations to which they agreed.

Email Heather Infantry at heather@generatorcity.org to have your organization added to this letter. Also, if you haven't already, please complete this survey on the state of Black arts in Atlanta - https://forms.gle/8TTQ9JSpcxSaWMWC8.
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June 4, 2020

Alicia Philipp
President
Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
191 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 1000
Atlanta, GA 30303

Dear Ms. Philipp,

We can fundamentally agree that systemic racism and discrimination is the fabric of America. At times it is subtle and at other times it’s glaring, but the pain rooted in this anti-Blackness is a constant. As evident by the protests in our cities this past weekend, Black people as a community and the Americans who love and support them are tired of this pain. We are tired of the racism, the oppression, the exploitation, the violence against Black bodies and the omission of Black voices. Furthermore, the global pandemic has intensified this fatigue when as a nation we witness that of the more than 100,000 lives lost to the devastating coronavirus, a disproportionate number of those deaths are of Black lives - lives that have been lost specifically because of the vulnerability that social and economic disenfranchisement has created in Black communities.

It is in this exhaustion and anger and the spirit of restoration and justice that we, the members of Metro Atlanta’s Black arts community, have brought to your attention the grave omission of Black organizations from your first round of $580,000 of emergency funding from the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta.

For the purpose of this communication, Black arts organizations are defined as organizations that in their creation, exhibition and/or performance of art declare their Blackness and further identify it in name, mission and/or target audience. These organizations are often founded and/or led by leaders of African descent.

While the present circumstances highlight the dire impact this disinvestment may have on the diversity of this city’s artistic community and the possible future of Black arts organizations, they only underscore a truth we have known for far too long: the Arts Fund has not made investments in the Metro Atlanta Black arts community in ways remotely comparable to the White arts community. Since the Arts Fund’s founding in 1993, 87% of the $15M allocated has gone to White arts organizations. And unless we collectively stand up and address this with courage and transparency, we are certain the Community Foundation will continue to omit Black organizations, in spite of the rhetoric that you recently have so passionately professed about equity and inclusion.

We are particularly frustrated with the inequities in the funding process that impact Black arts organizations, as they are the barriers to opportunity that masquerade as the simple inevitable outcomes of institutional policy. The Foundation’s application requirements such as audited or reviewed financials and a full-time W-2 employee disproportionately disqualify Black organizations. Requirements such as these, for expensive and time consuming practices, not only ignore the chronic underfunding that makes it impossible to afford such deliverables, it reinforces the false premise that Black arts organizations are incompetent with funds or don’t care to be “rigorous” in their business practices, and are therefore “untrustworthy” as stewards of donor funds. If Black organizations have succeeded in breaking through the Community Foundation force field it is the exception not the rule. Your philanthropic model was never designed for our success.

We have read and reread your response titled “We Hear You” and want to hold you to making better, more equitable decisions going forward. We believe a conversation between you and members of your team with Metro Atlanta’s Black arts community is an appropriate next step for transparency and understanding. We will convene a Zoom chat the week of June 8th and have included with this letter questions to guide our discussion and offer feedback.

Please indicate your availability to Heather Infantry at heather@generatorcity.org for the week of June 8th to hold this important conversation.

We eagerly await to hear from you.

Sincerely,

360 Arts Blvd
Abel 2
African Diaspora Art Museum of Atlanta (ADAMA)
Amario's Art Academy for the Gifted & Talented
Anthony Burrell Center for Dance
APEX Museum
Atlanta Black Theatre Festival
Atlanta Dance Connection
Atlanta Music Project
ARTiculate ATL
ARTlanta Gallery
ArtsXchange
Ballethnic Dance Company
Black mecca Project
Black Women in Visual Art
Blue Bistro Creative
Caribbean American Cultural Arts Foundation
Chi Ife Productions
ChopArt
Clark Atlanta University Art Museum
ComfiArt
Content Creators Hive
Cool Moms Dance Too
Cultivating Cultures
Cultural Creatives
Culture Centers International
Dance Canvas
Daryl L. Foster presents LIFT Men. Dance. Life
Dominion Arts Foundation
Fahamu Pecou Art
Friends of the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival
Future Dead Artists
Gospel Heritage Foundation
Hammonds House Museum
How Big is Your Dream?!
Impact Theatre Atlanta
Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company
Kidds Dance Project
Manga African Dance
Marietta’s New Theatre in the Square
museSalon Collaborative
Murmur
Music in the Park Atlanta
National Black Arts Festival
New African Grove Theatre Company
Peters Street Station/ City of Ink
Power Haus Creative
re:imagine/ATL
Soul Food Cypher
Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
T. Lang Dance
TILA Studios
Urban Youth Harp Ensemble
Veracity Dance Company
Youth Ensemble of Atlanta

Cc: Susan Grant, Board Chair
Lita Ugarte Pardi, Vice President of Community

Community Questions
How does the Arts Fund align with the Foundation’s new strategic focus on "equity of opportunity"?

How do you define Black and White organizations as well as other racial groups?

You described your application as “complex.” Why is this complexity a part of the granting process?

What consideration will you give to adjusting requirements, which are barriers to many small and mid-sized 5. organizations, such as annually audited or reviewed financials and the W-2 full-time employee requirement?

You indicated that you will make the granting process "more inclusive" but will it be more equitable? If so, how?

Who was on the review panel for the first round of arts funding in addition to Virginia Hepner? Who will be on the review panel for the next round of funding?

How much of the Arts Fund endowment is allocated each year? What percentage of the funding supports organizations explicitly serving the Black community?

The Arts Fund guidelines indicate the Foundation “will prioritize organizations that engage in diversity, equity and inclusion work” but nowhere in the application did applicants have to speak to this, so how were the eleven grantees in the first round assessed on this criteria?

Note: The National Black Arts Festival is the Black led/founded organization that applied to the fund in the first round. They were not informed that their application was incomplete but received instead an email stating that although they were not funded in the first round they would be considered for future rounds. On June 1, they were notified of a $100,000 award. This is their first grant in the history of the Arts Fund.
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