Ford Foundation dedicates $100M for new art spaces and projects, expansion of existing spaces

By Ula Ilnytzky, AP
Monday, April 5, 2010

Charity to give $100M in grants for new art spaces

NEW YORK — Artists and arts organizations nationwide are getting help with creating projects and spaces for performance, exhibition and other purposes in culturally diverse neighborhoods through a 10-year, $100 million grant program announced Monday by the Ford Foundation.

The foundation said its Supporting Diverse Art Spaces initiative will revitalize local economies by promoting strong cultural environments, noting that support for the arts is even more vital in the current economic downturn.

“There are leading arts and cultural organizations in our communities that are powerful cultural forces but that don’t have permanent homes or adequate spaces where they can create and produce their work,” said foundation President Luis Ubinas. “We want to work with these organizations to establish lasting and sustainable centers of artistic excellence that match the dignity of their creative work.”

Under the initiative, the foundation has already awarded a $1 million grant to the Minneapolis-based Artspace Projects to turn an abandoned 1890s East Harlem high school into artist housing and a hub for community arts, in partnership with the New York community group El Barrio’s Operation Fightback.

“This particular project has a potential of being a real cultural jewel for the city of New York,” Clyde Valentin, executive director of Hip Hop Theater Festival which would occupy space in the building, said in a video produced on the project.

The arts spaces could include artist studios, community meeting spaces, and any other facilities where artistic work can be created and produced.

Past projects that the Ford Foundation has supported and which were the impetus for the new grant program initiative include the expansion and renovation of new dance studios and community space for the Chen Dance Center in New York’s Chinatown and the expansion of programming at the Pregones Theater in the South Bronx, a hub for Latino artists and culture.

The dance center received $400,000 from the foundation, which said the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the economic downturn had nearly devastated the theater.

The foundation said the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the economic downturn had nearly devastated the dance center.

In Seattle, the new initiative is giving $250,000 to the Wing Luke Asian Museum, the country’s only pan-Asian-American museum, for marketing, a website upgrade, music events and other activities. It recently moved into a permanent facility in a renovated historic hotel that housed Asian immigrant workers in the early 1900s.

“These projects provide profound opportunities to collaborate,” said Roberta Uno, senior program officer with the foundation’s Freedom of Expression unit. “We can bring so many people together — corporations, foundations, community groups, local authorities, property developers and artists themselves — to create places that promote creativity, encourage civic interaction and create economic opportunity in our communities.”

Applicants for predevelopment and planning grants will go through a request-for-proposal process that will be managed by Leveraging Investments in Creativity. Known as LINC, the organization has a searchable U.S. database of arts centers and offers artists access to essential support services.

The Ford Foundation also is partnering with MetLife Foundation on the initiative.

“It’s an important step toward building a lasting infrastructure for independent artists in this country,” said Judilee Reed, executive director of Leveraging Investments in Creativity, an organization devoted to serving artists’ needs and improving their working conditions. “It’s important because the initiative will not only help anchor organizations that support artists in their communities … but it will also support affordable and accessible spaces in their community.”

The initiative also will provide mentoring, offering the experience and expertise of one group to others starting on a project. Some foundation money also will go for seminars on marketing, planning, fundraising and other issues relating to sustaining arts centers, and will be offered by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

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