NEW YORK, 5 April 2010—With funding for arts and cultural institutions under intense downward pressure nationally, the Ford Foundation today announced a 10-year, $100 million initiative to support a new generation of arts spaces. The Ford initiative is an investment in the creative energy of America, to help artists and arts organizations develop vibrant cultural spaces even in times of economic hardship.

The Ford grants will be awarded to projects that incubate and produce creative work across all disciplines.

The $100 million commitment comes at a time when funding for the arts has been severely curtailed by the financial downturn and acknowledges the potential of a strong cultural sector to help drive economic revitalization in hard-hit neighborhoods. The initiative, Supporting Diverse Arts Spaces, will provide grant funds to support both new projects and the revitalization and expansion of existing arts spaces.

Boosting Local Economies

“The cultural richness of our country is no less important in times of economic uncertainty. We must promote the creative work of individual artists and institutions in these difficult times,” said Luis Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation. “We also believe that this investment in arts infrastructure will advance the well-being of our communities because artists and art spaces can play a significant role in boosting local economies. Now more than ever, standing by the arts is pivotal.”

The design and development of these projects will be a collaborative exercise, bringing together artists, community residents, local groups and organizations, with private and public funders to support facilities that meet the needs and aspirations of all those involved.

The foundation will support three types of projects:

  • Emerging Facilities: Developing new arts spaces
  • Newly Opened Facilities: Launching new programs and addressing sustainability
  • Established Facilities: Expanding and renovating

Request for Proposals

As part of the initiative, the Ford Foundation has joined with LINC (Leveraging Investments in Creativity), and the MetLife Foundation, to call for applications for the first round of Ford Foundation Space for Change predevelopment and planning grants.

Through an open RFP process, grants of up to $100,000 will go to organizations that are in the early stages of planning facilities that support artistically innovative and culturally diverse endeavors that will strengthen relationships between the community and artists. The pipeline of competitive predevelopment grants will form the platform for large investments in the institutions that develop the strongest and most sustainable plans.

The predevelopment grants build on the recent MetLife Innovative Space Awards, which were supported by the same three organizations and recognized innovative artist spaces across the country. “This collaboration with the MetLife Foundation builds on Ford’s longstanding collaboration with the business community in arts funding,” said Ubiñas.

“We’re creating an innovation pipeline—arts groups that have gone through this kind of growth process will be brought in to offer their experience and expertise to others that are just embarking on a project,” said Alison Bernstein, vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. “It’s sharing best practices that will have an enduring effect on the cultural dynamics of American neighborhoods.”

The foundation has provided support to a number of innovative projects around the country, including in Seattle, where, after a 10-year journey, the Wing Luke Museum has established a permanent home in a superbly renovated historic hotel that housed Asian immigrant workers in the early 1900s.

Ford grants have also helped fund the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, which is leading a collaborative effort to revive a historically significant corridor in Central City New Orleans. Ashé is expanding its 18,200 sq ft multi-disciplinary facility to include affordable housing for artists of all disciplines as part of the development of a greater cultural district.

Support for New York Spaces

In New York, Ford grants have supported the development and renovation of the following spaces:

  • Chen Dance Center, which has recently re-opened in the heart of Chinatown.
  • Pregones Theater in the South Bronx, which has expanded its facilities and programming after more than 30 years as home to a vital network of Latino theater artists.
  • El Museo del Barrio, New York City’s leading Latino arts organization, based in East Harlem, which will use a $1 million grant for its expansion and strategic planning process.
  • Harlem Stage Gatehouse, which has transformed a 19th century historic building into a state-of-the-art flexible space for the arts in West Harlem and New York City.

Ford has also worked with local and national partners including the Minneapolis-based Artspace Projects Inc., to develop El Barrio’s Artspace (P.S. 109), an abandoned public school in East Harlem that is envisioned as a hub for the arts and the community.

“These projects provide profound opportunities to collaborate,” said Roberta Uno, senior program officer with the Freedom of Expression unit at the foundation. “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.”

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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