What happened to Meyer’s arts goal?

Graham Street Productions developed The Architecture of Internment: The Build Up to Wartime Incarceration, a traveling exhibit exploring how ordinary Oregonians pushed for internment of Japanese Americans. Visitors shared their reactions on this banner.

Meyer remains a strong supporter of the arts in Oregon, so why are the arts not specifically called out as a goal this year?

Over the past two years, thanks to applicants' feedback and our analysis of the number of grants awarded in relation to the total number of applications received, we learned we needed to be more specific about what we believe will help create a flourishing and equitable Oregon. The information we are sharing through our Annual Funding Opportunity about the Building Community portfolio is our attempt to provide more clarity and specificity about how we are looking to partner with organizations.

In this year's Annual Funding Opportunity, you'll notice a shift in how we are communicating about the portfolio but not in our focus on equity. We will continue to invest in people, organizations and systemic approaches to create lasting, transformational change. Arts and cultural initiatives and the organizations that host them play a crucial role in that change and are an integral part of the larger ecosystem that will guide Oregon toward social, political and economic change.

Meyer values all cultures and all forms of art and recognizes philanthropy has disproportionately funded some over others. For this reason, and in an effort to increase access to funding opportunities for all, Meyer does not restrict the type of organizations that can apply for funding for arts and cultural initiatives. Instead, we hope that arts organizations identify with Meyer's vision and mission and see themselves at the intersection of social justice, arts and culture — that is to say, at the place where creativity, community, history, present struggles, beauty, healing and innovation come together to transform all of us and our relation to each other.

Arts and cultural initiatives can help us imagine and live into new realities. They can illustrate a multi-perspective recollection of history, help create or maintain a sense of belonging, preserve cultural practices, convey social justice messages in ways that provoke action, communicate a desired state and help document change. By expanding and shifting narratives, arts and cultural initiatives can influence and change our collective culture — the beliefs and behaviors that uphold our social structure. As the arts become reflective of the cultural realities of all Oregonians and continue to provide space for learning, healing and celebration, they can help build inclusive communities that are equipped to challenge deeply rooted social inequities and work toward a just society.

Given their potential, organizations seeking to implement arts and cultural initiatives are encouraged to apply under any one of the Building Community portfolio goals. As with all other applicants, we will be looking to partner with organizations that: (1) demonstrate commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion; (2) integrate constituent voice in their planning and (3) connect their work to broader change and anchor solutions in an understanding of why inequities exist. More information on these three baseline criteria can be found here and information on what doesn't fit is also available.

Here are some examples of arts and cultural initiatives that Meyer has funded in the past two years and how they would have fit under the redesigned Building Community goals and outcomes.

Goal 1: Community connection and belonging

Community Connection — Native Arts and Cultures Foundation will fund Oregon-based, artist-led projects on tribal reservations that magnify and address pressing social issues and engage Native and non-Native communities in learning about and addressing issues of contemporary relevance for all. Nationally funded projects of NACF have had significant impact on large systems, including conversations among municipal authorities for binational cooperation along the U.S./Mexico border.

Raised Voices — Oregon Black Pioneers Corporation developed Racing to Change, Oregon's Civil Rights Years, a traveling exhibit to increase understanding of the courage and struggle of black Oregonians during the civil rights movement and today. For Oregon Black Pioneers, community-based planning processes and engaging multi-generational advisory committees are common practices for the creation of projects' visions and goals.

Changed Conditions — With support from a selection committee representative of the area's diversity, Bag and Baggage Productions is commissioning three new adaptations of Shakespeare's "problem plays" by Oregon-based playwrights of color. This is Bag and Baggage's next step to address representation gaps on stage, backstage and in audiences. Some of their previous equity work includes efforts to address gender parity within the company and their programming.

Goal 2: Strong nonprofit leaders and organizations

Organizational Capacity — Phame Academy increased their capacity to implement PHAME Forward, a multi-year project to support adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in achieving their fullest potential. Their approach also supports the arts community in becoming more inclusive of people with IDD in order to build more equitable economic outcomes and arts opportunities.

Operationalized Equity — As part of their efforts to develop responsive exhibits and programs, the High Desert Museum will institutionalize community-informed practices; its Diversity Committee will have leadership representation from all departments, board members and a volunteer representative; and they will put in place a policy outlining guidelines and expectations for continued growth in diversity, equity and inclusion for every department.

Goal 3: Civic engagement and systems change

Policy and Systems Change — Advance Gender Equity in the Arts plays an active advocacy role within the arts community to advance intersectional equity and women's safety. Their incentivizing approach encourages theatre companies to engage in equity work to institutionalize safety policies and equitable practices to address age and gender disparities in the arts. AGE seeks to create sector-wide impact.

Innovation — Graham Street Productions developed The Architecture of Internment: The Build Up to Wartime Incarceration, a traveling exhibit exploring how ordinary Oregonians pushed for internment of Japanese Americans. Using art as a tool and a collaborative grass-roots distribution model, Graham Street engaged communities across Oregon in conversations not only about the state's history of inequality but also about current issues and sentiments that can influence and have spurred damaging policies.

There are multiple arts and cultural initiatives that can help advance equity. We are excited to hear from organizations about the impact you think arts and cultures can have on building thriving and just communities in Oregon.

For more information on this year's Annual Funding Opportunities and to keep the conversation on the topic going, join me for a virtual information session for arts and cultural initiatives at 10 a.m. Friday, April 6.