Animating Democracy Collaboration

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Diving into Racial Equity: The MAP Fund’s Exploration examines the MAP Fund’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, and what an evaluation revealed.

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 three grant 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.  

Read the full case study here

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 supports original live performance projects that embody a spirit of deep inquiry, particularly works created by artists who question, disrupt, complicate, and challenge inherited notions of social and cultural hierarchy across the United States. MAP invests in artistic production as the critical foundation of imagining, and ultimately co-creating, a more equitable and vibrant society.

Banner: MAP 2020 grantee Body As A Crossroads by Marina Magalhães, Emily Goulding, & Bianca Medina. Photography by Bobby Gordon.