What is America’s Cultural Treasures?

America’s Cultural Treasures is a two-pronged national and regional initiative to acknowledge and honor the diversity of artistic expression and excellence in America and provide critical funding to organizations that have made a significant impact on America’s cultural landscape, despite historically limited resources.

To date, the initiative has raised more than $276million from more than 40 foundations and major donors. The national component consists of $81 million in funding from the Ford Foundation and five other donors: the Abrams Foundation, the Alice L. Walton Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Tom and Lisa Blumenthal, and Barbara and Amos Hostetter.

As the second component of America’s Cultural Treasures, numerous foundations drove fundraising and design for individually-tailored regional grantmaking initiatives, which the Ford Foundation seeded with an initial $35 million in support. The foundation partners span eight regions, and are: the Barr Foundation (Massachusetts), the Getty Foundation (Los Angeles), Heinz Endowments (Pittsburgh), Houston Endowment (Houston), the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (Chicago), the Joyce Foundation (Chicago), the McKnight Foundation (Minnesota), the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation (Los Angeles), South Arts (U.S. South), the Terra Foundation for American Art (Chicago), and the William Penn Foundation (Philadelphia).

Why launch this effort now?

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an existential threat to nonprofit organizations and arts institutions across the country. Economists and fundraising experts predict that the drop in charitable giving will likely be more significant than that of the Great Recession in 2008, and recovery will likely take longer. Arts and cultural organizations play an essential role in our communities, and without intensified support, many organizations will be forced to close for good. This is especially true for arts organizations led by and serving communities of color that have historically been underfunded. As the DeVos Institute reported in its 2015 study of diversity in the arts, “The 20 largest mainstream organizations have a median budget of $61 million; the 20 largest organizations of color have a median budget size of $3.8 million.” A difference of 16 times in median budget size is a glaring illustration of disparity.

Which organizations will receive support from this initiative?

Nationally, 20 organizations have been selected to receive grants: the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Apollo Theater, the Arab American National Museum, Ballet Hispánico, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Dance Theater of Harlem, East West Players, El Museo del Barrio, the Japanese American National Museum, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, the National Museum of Mexican Art, Penumbra Theatre, Project Row Houses, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Urban Bush Women, and the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.

The scope and recipients of local programs were determined and individually tailored by local foundations in the eight cities and regions. To learn more about the regional funding initiatives and grantees, visit:

How much funding did national grantees receive?

National grants range in size from $1 to 6 million, representing a significant portion of each institution’s operating budget. In addition to the grant funds, each grantee received up to $100,000 for organizational capacity building—particularly in key areas including digital strategies and other needs.

Why were the 20 organizations selected as national grantees?

The 20 national grant recipients represent the cultural heritage and creativity of communities that have been historically marginalized, underfunded, and excluded from participation in mainstream arts institutions. They were selected based on one or more of the following criteria:

  • A nationally or internationally recognized quality in artistic and cultural production and reach
  • A recognized legacy for stewarding and sustaining a cultural tradition rooted in a community of color
  • A significant legacy of impact over more than two decades
  • Leadership as a training ground or school for several generations of artists and arts leaders
  • Recognition as an indispensable hub for a larger network of allied organizations

Do you plan to identify more national grantees in the future? Will this be an ongoing program?

America’s Cultural Treasures is a one-time initiative intended to catalyze a national conversation and increase giving to Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous arts organizations by other donors and foundations. It was made possible by an initial investment of $85 million from the proceeds of the Ford Foundation’s historic social bond offering announced in 2020. While this initiative is time-limited, the Ford Foundation will continue to fund diverse arts and cultural organizations through its ongoing Creativity and Free Expression program.

Why is this initiative only in eight cities and regions of the country?

The regions are selected by the local funding partners that have committed to raising funds for America’s Cultural Treasures. Each of these funders have made previous significant investments in the arts and have a strong commitment to social justice and racial equity.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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