Inside Philanthropy: Seeking More Diverse Collections, an Arts Funder Looks Beyond Museums and Libraries

Seeking More Diverse Collections, an Arts Funder Looks Beyond Museums and Libraries

by Mike Scutari, Inside Philanthropy

One of the big themes across arts philanthropy is funders' efforts to expand grantmaking and engage communities that traditionally weren't on their radars.

This work can take many forms. Foundation leaders have rolled out participatory grantmaking panels, partnered with consultants, or even cold-called local BIPOC organizations after searching for them online.

Another promising strategy is emerging out of Chicago and South Carolina, where the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation looks to expand the definition of a collecting organization beyond museums and libraries to illuminate historically underrepresented groups and viewpoints.

Last September, the foundation announced 'Broadening Narratives,' a $750,000 initiative for organizations whose collections 'illustrate BIPOC communities, LGBTQ+ perspectives, working-class narratives and small community experiences.' The foundation is specifically interested in proposals that 'bring forward new and recovered narratives' around Chicago's history of immigration and migration, and
South Carolina's Lowcountry's deeply rooted 'experiences of race and power.'

The initiative is the result of a two-year process in which the foundation brought together experts and community members to solicit ideas on how best to reimagine a centuries-old art collection model.

'We have always supported museums and libraries,' foundation Executive Director David Farren told me, 'but we understand that there are other organizations that serve multiple functions in a community, such as community centers, small culturally specific organizations, schools and churches that have important and substantial archives of a given community.'

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