In its first round of funding, the BIPOC Arts Network and Fund (BANF) has announced that it is awarding a combined $2 million to 120 Houston-area arts groups serving Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern and other communities of color.
The grants range from $5,000 to $50,000 for 59 artist collectives and 61 arts organizations – with support from the Ford Foundation, Houston Endowment, The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Cullen Foundation, Kinder Foundation, and The Powell Foundation.
“This is a moving moment because there are many grantees who are being funded for the first time, despite having a strong and lengthy track record of work in their communities,” said Marissa Castillo, co-founder of TEATRX, in a press release. The Latinx theater company is the recipient of a $7,500 BANF grant.
“This grant helps TEATRX advance our mission of making Latinx performance arts a vital and prominent part of the artistic identity of Houston by representing and supporting the Latinx community, its artists, and its stories,” Castillo said.
While Houston is the most racially and ethnically diverse city in an increasingly diverse country, 90% of local arts philanthropy goes to 27 mostly white-led organizations, according to a 2017 study by Houston Endowment.
Only about 7% of local public funding goes to Latinx organizations, per a Houston report that was released in 2018 by the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture.
Nationally, the 20 largest mainstream arts organizations have a median budget of $61 million – 16 times the median budget of the 20 largest organizations of color at $3.8 million, according to a 2015 Diversity in the Arts study by the DeVos Institute.
BANF was launched in September 2021 to address these inequities locally. The multi-year initiative aims to support BIPOC-led nonprofits that provide arts and culture programming, as well as fiscally-sponsored artist collectives, across the nine counties of Greater Houston (Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller counties).
The groundwork for the effort was laid by the Ford Foundation’s America’s Cultural Treasures initiative, which in September 2020 committed an unprecedented $156 million to support BIPOC arts communities nationwide in response to the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of that amount, $5 million was invested in the Greater Houston region and combined with contributions from local foundations to create BANF.
Of the 155 grant applicants in this inaugural round, 77% were funded after going through a review process by a panel of creatives, arts administrators, and arts and community leaders from Houston’s BIPOC communities.
“We took the opportunity to prioritize learning and abundance and to de-emphasize competition in our grantmaking process,” said Sixto Wagan, BANF Project Director, in a statement.
“We saw this as an opportunity to learn from the written and spoken words of applicants what our communities’ strengths and challenges are as they face the current economic, social, and health realities of today,” Wagan said.
Organizers say that this community-learning approach that centers BIPOC voices will continue to guide BANF as it develops ways to assist artists beyond financial investment – such as by “broadening networks or expanding development opportunities.”
In this coming year, the initiative will host a series of information sessions with grantees and the arts community at large to identify how BIPOC arts organizations and artists want to be supported specifically to meet challenges and needs.
A full list of grantees can be found here.