Lessons From the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund

Lessons From the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund

A report from the New York Community Trust highlights lessons learned from the work of the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund — a funder collaborative launched in 2014 by the trust, the Rockefeller Brothers and David Rockefeller funds, and the Booth Ferris, Robert Sterling Clark, Lambent, Stavros Niarchos, and Robert Rauschenberg foundations — to strengthen arts advocacy, promote equitable and cohesive cultural policies, and advance racial equity in New York City by ensuring that small community arts groups, groups led by people of color, and culturally and economically diverse artists are valued. According to the report, Lessons From the New York City Cultural Agenda Fund (12 pages, PDF), the fund awarded eighty-nine grants totaling $2.27 million to sixty-seven organizations and helped build a broader commitment to a fairer and more equitable arts ecosystem and a more deeply connected network of arts organizations; informed New York City's first cultural plan, which directly addressed equity issues; and created a model for building racial equity practices into the arts sector. Along with the Surdna Foundation, the fund also supported research on the relationship between arts and culture and social well-being, which found that when controlled for race, ethnicity, and economic status, a significant concentration of cultural assets in neighborhoods marked by concentrated disadvantage was associated with an increase in the number of students scoring high on English and math tests and declines in cases of child abuse or neglect, felony crime rates, and rates of hypertension, obesity, and teen pregnancy. Lessons for grantmakers include the need to learn from and with grantees, stay focused on their goals, take intentional steps to make programs accessible to small, low-budget organizations, and make multiyear commitments informed by a long-term vision.