Special Projects

animating democracyartist reliefEquity in the panel room

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.

MAP Fund is a proud coalition partner behind Artist Relief, emergency funding and resources for artists affected by COVID-19.

Launched in April 2020, Artist Relief is an initiative organized by the Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, National YoungArts Foundation, and United States Artists—all small to mid-sized national arts grant makers—that came together in this unprecedented moment guided by the understanding that the wellbeing of artists has financial, professional, social, and mental dimensions, and should be fostered with a holistic framework of support.

As such, Artist Relief distributed $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19; served as an ongoing informational resource; and co-launched the COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, designed by Americans for the Arts, to better identify and address the needs of artists moving forward.

Artist Relief launched with a generous $5 million seed gift from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to match an initial $5 million in funding generously provided by the following foundations: 7|G Foundation, Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, Amazon Literary Partnership, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Arison Arts Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, Ford Foundation, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation COVID-19 Relief Effort, Jerome Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Kraus Family Foundation, LeRoy Neiman and Janet Byrne Neiman Foundation, Metabolic Studio, Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, Open Society Foundations, Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation, Richard Salomon Family Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, The Sue Hostetler and Beau Wrigley Family Foundation, Teiger Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, and The Willem de Kooning Foundation.

According to Artists and Other Cultural Workers: A Statistical Portrait, a study published in 2019 by the Office of Research & Analysis (ORA) at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), there are 2.5 million working artists in the United States.

Practicing artists living in all fifty states, territories, and Tribal Nations, working in any discipline, were able to apply for the $5,000 grant. Artists demonstrating the most severe needs will be prioritized, with an emphasis on funding widely across disciplines and geographies, as well as disability, ethnicity, and gender. Applications will be reviewed and assessed for eligibility and need in collaboration with cultural nonprofits across the country, who will assist in the determination and selection process.

Artist Relief was made possible due to the generosity, vision, and thought partnership of dozens of funders and other partners across the country—a full list can be found here.

Update: Artist Relief resumed from March 8 to June 23, 2021, thanks to a generous lead gift from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation that was matched by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, The Willem de Kooning Foundation, DeWitt Stern Group, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Imperfect Family Foundation, Kinkade Family Foundation, Carolee Schneemann Foundation, Lenore G. Tawney Foundation, and Teiger Foundation.

Learn more at artistrelief.org

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 of Calgary Arts Development 

Pam Breaux of National Assembly of State Arts Agencies 

Francene J. Blythe of Native Arts and Cultures Foundation 

Moira Brennan of MAP Fund 

Emilya Cachapero of Theatre Communications Group 

Gargi Shindé of Chamber Music America 

Kathy Hsieh of the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture 

Ken May, formerly of South Carolina Arts Commission 

Tariana Navas-Nieves of Denver Arts & Venues 

Jane Preston of New England Foundation for the Arts 

Eleanor Savage of the Jerome Foundation 

Dara Silver of 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, & Bianca Medina. Photography by Bobby Gordon.