Arts Funding Does Not Reflect Nation's Diversity, Report Finds

A new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a nonprofit advocacy group, argues that foundation funding for the arts benefits a mostly wealthy, white audience, with only a small percentage going to emerging arts groups that serve poorer, more ethnically diverse communities, the Associated Press reports.

According to Fusing Arts, Culture, and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy (44 pages, PDF), large arts organizations with budgets of $5 million or more comprise only 2 percent of the nonprofit arts and culture sector but accounted for 55 percent of foundation funding for the arts in 2009. At the same time, while many traditional arts institutions — including museums, operas, and symphonies — have seen their attendance decline in recent years, demand for community-based arts offerings initiatives has been growing.

The report also found that only 10 percent of arts funding went to underserved populations — although Holly Sidford, the report's author, acknowledged that the data on which the report is based might not account for every dollar that benefits diverse audiences through large institution programming. Still, NCRP executive director Aaron Dorfman told the AP that arts philanthropy was not adjusting to the country's growing diversity and that the study was intended to encourage funders of traditional arts institutions to undertake projects that are inclusive of a broader audience.

"You are dealing with shifting demographics that are fairly recent," said Maurine Knighton, director of the arts and culture program at the New York City-based Nathan Cummings Foundation. "Foundations will have to make a deliberate effort to catch up. It's just a different way of considering how to be most effective with our grant dollars."