Q: Why is Wallace undertaking this initiative?

A: First, we believe it will help Wallace intensify its long-standing focus on equity by funding arts organizations of color, which have long been overlooked or underfunded by many philanthropies.

Second, recent studies suggest that "community orientation," along with high standards of artistic programming, is foundational to organizational health, especially among arts organizations of color. We hope to learn what organizations of color, many of whom have community orientation in their DNA, can teach the larger field about the links between community orientation, relevance and resilience.

Q: Who counts as an "arts organization of color"?

A: We define arts organizations of color as organizations that are founded by (in either artistic or administrative leadership) ​and for Black, In​digenous, Hispanic/Latinx, Arab American, or Asian American/Pacific Islander communities, and continue to serve those communities today.

Q: What do you mean by "community orientation"?

A: "Community orientation," for the purposes of this initiative, refers to an organization's efforts to serve its community through artistic work and other means. It could include an organization's efforts to:

  • Engage audiences from a particular community;
  • Present and preserve the community's art forms or works;
  • Foster new artistic productions from that community through commissions or partnerships; or
  • Develop a cultural workforce or advocate for its community.

One of the initiative's goals is to determine whether this is a meaningful definition of the term and how it could be refined.​

Q: What's involved in the initiative?

A: This initiative, like most Wallace initiatives, will be longer than those of many foundations, lasting at least five years. We hope that such a long-term approach will allow grantees significant time, funding and flexibility to deeply explore the challenges they face and develop and test new ways to overcome them.

It will also include a thorough research effort that seeks to answer a central question: How can and do arts organizations of color, facing strategic challenges, leverage their experience and histories of community orientation to increase their resilience, while sustaining their relevance?

To help answer this question, we will ask grant recipients to:

  • Participate in a ​​year of planning to collectively define the goals of the initiative, refine project plans and prepare for implementation;
  • Collaborate with researchers​ to develop a logic model that defines the scope of the project at the organization;
  • Work closely with an ethnographer in the first year of the initiative to document the organization's history, culture and context;
  • Participate in research activities such as interviews and focus groups; 
  • Coordinate the participation of other stakeholders, such as staffers and board members, in these ​​activities;
  • Participate in monthly meetings, either with Wallace staffers, consultants or independent researchers;​ 
  • Participate in quarterly meetings with Wallace program officers; and​
  • Participate in two multi-day conferences every year to allow senior executives to collaborate and learn from each other. These conferences will be virtual at first but will meet in person when appropriate.

Wallace will provide technical assistance participants feel they need or want, including help with strategic planning, data analysis and staff or board development.

Q: What's the purpose of the planning year?

A: We recognize that arts organizations of color understand their work better than we do. The initiative will therefore rely on the expertise of its participants to develop the initiative.

The planning year will allow all grant recipients to collectively name the initiative, define its goals, refine research questions, determine strategies and priorities and identify any supports they will need. It is also meant to provide grantees with time and space to develop their projects and to share ideas as they see fit.

Q: Will grantees receive funding for the planning year?

A: Yes, grantees will receive funding for the planning year, including funding to address any immediate obstacles they must clear before beginning initiative work.

Q: Will all organizations participating in the planning year also participate in the full initiative?

A: Our hope is that all organizations selected for the planning year will continue to participate through the course of the initiative. However, a grantee may opt out if Wallace and the grantee determine that the initiative's goals fit poorly with the grantee's mission. Opting out will not harm any future funding possibilities with Wallace.

Eligibility and Applications for Arts Organizations

Q: Who is eligible for this initiative?

A: There will be two cohorts in this initiative. Organizations in the first cohort, which will begin planning its work early in 2022, must:

  • Identify as an arts organization of color, by which we mean founded by (in either artistic or administrative leadership) ​and for Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx, Arab American, or Asian American/Pacific Islander communities, and continue to serve those communities today;
  • Be based in the 50 United States, District of Columbia or Puerto Rico;
  • Be a nonprofit organization or have an existing nonprofit fiscal sponsor;
  • Have an annual budget between $500,000 and $5 million in 2019 or 2020 fiscal year;
  • Have been in operation for at least 10 years; and
  • Focus primarily on engaging the public with the arts.

We will consider submissions from the following genres: performing arts, visual arts, media arts, literary arts and community-based organizations founded by and focusing on artists and artistic practice. Heritage museums of color that include contemporary art and artists are also eligible.

Organizations whose primary mission is arts education, youth outcomes, professional development, or continuing education are not eligible for this initiative. Wallace has separate initiatives in arts education​. This initiative will focus on arts presenters with a reasonable degree of similarity so we can effectively manage the initiative and learn from their experiences.

We will define eligibility for a second cohort of smaller-budget organizations once the first cohort has defined the goals and the course of the initiative.

Q: Why is Wallace creating two cohorts for this initiative?

A: Wallace has historically worked with larger organizations that can commit to large, multi-year initiatives and the detailed data-collection these initiatives require. We recognize, however, that most arts organizations of color are, often intentionally, smaller organizations that don't have such luxuries.

We will therefore begin the initiative with a small cohort of 10 to 12 larger organizations that are somewhat similar to those with which we have worked in the past. Beginning the initiative with such a cohort will allow Wallace to learn more about arts organizations of color, the supports they need and the limitations they face.

We will then use what we learn to engage a second, larger cohort of smaller organizations that is more representative of arts organizations of color but includes those that are less familiar to Wallace. We hope that this two-phase approach will allow us to be more methodological, diligent and sensitive in our efforts to support the types of organizations we have rarely supported before.

Q: Why is Wallace excluding organizations that work in arts education, youth outcomes and professional development?

A: Wallace has separate initiatives in such areas. This initiative will focus on arts presenters with a reasonable degree of similarity so we can effectively manage the initiative and learn from their experiences.

Q: I'm interested! How do I apply?

A: The application window is now closed. Follow us on social media or join our email list​ to learn about future opportunities. 

Where to find help

Q: Where can I go if I still have questions?

A: Please contact us via email (no attachments) at

Eligibility and Applications for Researchers

Q: How can I submit a research proposal to study the initiative?

A: The window for submitting a letter of intent has now closed. Instructions for submitting your research proposal by October 4, 2021 are included in the RFP. If you submitted a letter of intent, you will also receive notices of future research RFPs in the arts. ​

Selection Process for Arts Organizations

Q: What happens after I submit my form? How will letters of interest from arts organizations be judged?

A: There will be three rounds of review for the first cohort of participating organizations.

Round 1: Wallace will review all submissions, looking for about 50 organizations that can help meet our goals to:

  • Strengthen the participating organizations;
  • Strengthen the sector of arts organizations of color; and
  • Develop lessons and evidence for arts organizations interested in community orientation

We will select organizations that are diverse in terms of geographic region, artistic discipline and the racial or ethnic communities they serve. Selected organizations will be notified by the end of ​September and invited to complete a full grant application.

Round 2:  We will ask selected organizations to submit more detailed proposals about their ideas and approaches to strengthen their work. Wallace will review applications and select 15 to 20 organizations for in-depth interviews and site visits.

Round 3: Interviews and site visits will be in person if reasonable and virtual if not. Following the site visits, Wallace will invite about 10 to 12 organizations to participate in the planning year.

Q: Why are there so many rounds to this application?

A: We hope to be as inclusive as possible without demanding too much information from organizations that may not be selected. We have therefore split the process into three rounds. The first round will cast a wide net that requires little effort from interested organizations. The second and third rounds will require more effort but will also have greater chances of success.

Organizations' Involvement in Research​​

​Q: What does it mean to work with an ethnographic researcher?

A: Arts organizations of color are relatively underrepresented in research and policy literature, with little information about important organizations' founding histories and how these histories shape the organizations' purpose, mission, culture and work. To begin to address this shortcoming, we have funded the Social Science Research Council to match ethnographic researchers with each organization participating in the first cohort to document its history, both for the organization and for the field.

Ethnographic researchers will study organizations in the first year of the initiative. The details of their work will be determined in collaboration with participating organizations so processes and outcomes meet organizations' needs.

Researchers would likely attend regular meetings at their assigned organizations, conduct interviews and review historical documents. They could be embedded in their assigned organizations, spending a year working with and for the organization while documenting its history and work, or they could work with the organization for a few days or weeks at a time, depending on the organizations' preferences. 

We expect researchers to work with organizations to establish and abide by clear boundaries for their work. We also expect them to be sensitive to confidentiality and other ethical concerns as they conduct their studies.

Q: What does it mean to collaborate with researchers?

A: In addition to the ethnographic research described above, Wallace will commission a research team to study the full five years of the initiative. The research team will work with each organization to develop a logic model describing its goals and to document how it implements and refines efforts over the course of the initiative.

We would ask organizations to assist research efforts by:

  • Making senior staff available for interviews and focus groups;
  • Inviting researchers to observe key events;
  • Responding to occasional surveys; and
  • Reviewing researchers' findings to ensure accuracy and to add nuance researchers may have missed.