The organizations in the Wallace arts initiative, launched in spring 2022, are located around the country and span the visual and performing arts fields, media arts, and community-based organizations focused on artistic practice.
Each organization will receive funding to carry out an individual project of their choosing over four years to address various kinds of strategic challenges, using approaches that leverage the organization’s deep connection with its community. Researchers will document this work, as well as the organization’s unique history, with the aim of developing insights about the relationship between community orientation, resilience and relevance.
We asked the organizations to introduce themselves.
1Hood Media (Pittsburgh, Pa.) is dedicated to building liberated communities and uplifting marginalized voices through art, education, and social justice. Through 1Hood Artivist Academy, 1Hood Media provides resources and an international platform to artists who speak truth to power, fostering a new generation of artist-activists.
Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, Mich.) is the first and only museum of its kind in the United States devoted to documenting, preserving, and presenting the history, culture, and contributions of Arab Americans, including the first immigrants who arrived in the late 19th century to today. The museum fosters public dialogue about Arab and American cultures through informed programs that encompass the complexity of these communities.
BlackStar (Philadelphia, Pa.) creates the spaces and resources needed to uplift the work of Black, Brown, and Indigenous artists working outside the confines of genre, including producing year-round programs such as film screenings, exhibitions, an annual film festival and more. By presenting visionary and experimental work to imagine a new world, BlackStar elevates artists who are overlooked, made invisible, or misunderstood and celebrates the wide spectrum of aesthetics, storytelling, and experiences that they bring.
Chicago Sinfonietta (Chicago, Ill.) is a professional orchestra dedicated to modeling and promoting diversity, inclusion, and both racial and cultural equity in the arts through the universal language of symphonic music. Their commitment to being at the forefront of innovation drives Chicago Sinfonietta’s high standard of symphonic experiences, creative and immersive audience engagement activities, and impactful career development and education outreach programs.
EastSide Arts Alliance, Black Cultural Zone, and Artist As First Responder (Oakland, Calif.) are working collectively to support and foster creative communities in East Oakland neighborhoods. The three organizations have banded together to provide arts-led services for the area’s Black, Indigenous/Raza, and Southeast Asian working-class communities with the goal of improving quality of life and advocating for progressive systemic social change.
Esperanza Peace and Justice Center (San Antonio, Texas) is a multidisciplinary, community-based cultural organization with a vision for social change that bridges the divides between communities. Throughout its history, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center has been led by queer Chicanas and has been one of a few organizations to center LGBTQI and feminist voices in both its cultural work and community activism.
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (Charlotte, N.C.) is a multidisciplinary arts institution dedicated to presenting, preserving, and celebrating excellence in the art, history, and culture of African Americans and those of African descent through visual and literary arts, dance, music, film, educational programs, theatre productions, and community outreach.
The Laundromat Project (Brooklyn, N.Y.) is a Black-rooted and POC (People of Color)-centered community-based arts organization that advances the work of artists and neighbors as change agents in their own communities. The Laundromat Project makes art and culture in community, while fostering leadership among neighbors through its artist development programs and its creative community-building initiatives across New York City.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (San Juan, Puerto Rico) is an artist founded museum that fosters an open view of contemporary art from multiple perspectives that converge in Puerto Rico: Diasporic, Latinx, Caribbean-regional, and Latin American cultures within a global context. It is a collecting institution, a space of production and creation, as well as of research and conservation, that encourages a constant dialogue between artists and audiences.
PHILADANCO! The Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadelphia Pa.) was founded by Joan Myers Brown in 1970 to address the lack of opportunities for dancers of color in the Delaware Valley. PHILADANCO! continues to present the highest quality of professional dance performance and improve the skills of emerging and professional dancers and choreographers from all backgrounds in a nurturing environment, while increasing the appreciation of dance among its many local, national, and international communities.
Pillsbury House + Theater (Minneapolis, Minn.) is a center for creativity, community, and culture that is an arts-integrated, cross-sector collaboration where people can dream and build better futures through theatre and arts programming including artist development programs; theatre-based diversity, equity, and inclusion work; and arts-based community development initiatives, that inspire enduring change toward a just society.
Pregones / Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (Bronx, N.Y.) is a multigenerational performing ensemble, multidisciplinary arts presenter, and owner/steward of bilingual arts facilities in The Bronx and Manhattan. The company champions a Puerto Rican/Latinx cultural legacy of universal value through creation and performance of original plays and musicals, exchange and partnership with other artists of merit, and engagement of diverse audiences.
Queer Women of Color Media Arts - QWOCMAP (San Francisco, Calif.) uses film to shatter stereotypes and bias, reveal the lived truth of inequality, challenge the roots of inequity and injustice, and spotlight the brilliance, creativity, and leadership of LBTQIA+ Black, Native American & Indigenous, people of color through art and activism. The organization creates, exhibits, and distributes films that authentically reflect the lives of queer women of color, both cisgender and transgender, and nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and transgender people of color of any orientation.
Ragamala Dance (Minneapolis, Minn.) is nationally renowned for creating transcendent multidisciplinary dance works that mine cultural wisdom and creative imagination. Mother/daughter Artistic Directors Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy’s practice in the South Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam has shifted the trajectory of culturally rooted performing arts in the United States to create an exemplary organization that empowers the South Asian American experience.
Rebuild Foundation (Chicago, Ill.) is an artist-led, neighborhood-based platform for art, cultural development, and neighborhood transformation. Founded by artist and social innovator Theaster Gates, Rebuild supports artists and strengthens communities by providing free arts programming and creating new cultural amenities on the South Side of Chicago.
Self Help Graphics & Art (Los Angeles, Calif.) is dedicated to the production, interpretation, and distribution of prints and other art media by Chicana/o and Latina/o artists. Their multidisciplinary, intergenerational programs promote artistic excellence and empower their community by providing access to space, tools, training, and resources.
Theater Mu (Saint Paul, Minn.) produces great performances born of arts, equity, and justice from the Asian American experience. Theater Mu celebrates and empowers Asian Americans through theater by giving voice to the Asian American community, offering opportunities for mainstream audiences to gain insight and empathy for Asian American culture and heritage.
The Union for Contemporary Art (Omaha, Neb.) was founded to address the lack of resources available to local artists and the segregation that exists within Omaha. Through its exhibitions, performing arts productions, artist fellowships and youth programming, The Union aims to strengthen the cultural and social landscape of its community by using the arts as a vehicle to inspire positive social change.
Social Science Research Council
Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is an independent, international, nonprofit organization founded in 1923 to generate new insight into pressing societal issues. It fosters innovative research, nurtures new generations of social scientists, deepens how inquiry is practiced within and across disciplines and mobilizes necessary knowledge on important public issues.
In 2021, the SSRC established the Arts Research with Communities of Color program, an initiative devoted to exploring how social science research can contribute to a thriving and more equitable arts field through empirical research, theory building and analysis, while also supporting the professional development of early-career researchers. The SSRC is partnering with the Wallace Foundation to match early-career qualitative research fellows with participating arts organizations to collaborate on 12-month research projects. The aim is to produce in-depth studies documenting the histories, organizational cultures and relationships with the artistic or cultural communities they serve.
Community Orientation Action Research Team (COART)
COART is a partnership between the Studio for Creativity, Place and Equitable Communities at Arizona State University and the Equity Center at the University of Virginia.
The Studio for Creativity, Place and Equitable Communities is an applied research and action unit of Arizona State University. The Studio advances the integration of arts, culture and design in community development, planning and related fields in order to help redress historic inequities and create healthy, equitable, more just communities where all people can thrive.
Equity Center at the University of Virginia grows out of many years of social justice advocacy in Charlottesville and the surrounding region, as an avenue for the university to redress racism in the community. The Center’s mission is to tangibly redress racial and economic inequity in university communities by advancing a transformative approach to the fundamental research mission, which will, in turn, reform institutional values, pedagogy and operations.
In the first year of the initiative, COART worked with the 18 arts organization grantees to help them develop theories of action and identify key issues relevant to the research design for the four years of implementation. The study is intended to:
- Support the work of arts organizations participating in the initiative by providing and helping to distill practical, formative insights;
- Develop mutually beneficial, evidence-based materials that uplift underrepresented perspectives and provide practical guidance to other arts organizations of color, their communities and the field at large; and
- Contribute to the research-based body of knowledge on arts organizations of color to help create a more fertile environment for them to thrive.