By Janice Nesamani
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Twelve organizations in the Seattle area will receive matching grants of $5,000 each. Several of the groups are Asian and help enrich the cultural fabric of the region.
In situations where words fall short, art has the ability to bridge gaps, foster understanding, and help people connect. Seattle has always been a gateway to the West, attracting people from different cultures and beliefs, which is why today, it is one of the most culturally diverse places in the country. And weaving people from different cultures together is the diverse art of the region. Since its inception in 1969, ArtsFund has been supporting arts organizations in the area, helping individuals connect, building community, and promoting understanding across cultures.
ArtsFund recently awarded $60,000 to 12 organizations in Seattle and the Eastside. They did this through the Multicultural Arts Project and have empowered 12 arts and cultural organizations with $5,000 matching grants. ArtsFund has left it up to the organizations to use the funds for what they see fit. Speaking about the project, President and CEO Mari Horita said, “During the application process, we received very inspiring and touching stories of what these organizations would do to reach their communities and further their art.”
Sarah Sidman, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Communication, explained that over 75 percent of the applications were from Asian groups who were building bridges not only within generations of their own communities, but with other communities and cultures in the region. “Part of our goal is to enable these cultural organizations to leverage the funds to raise additional funds for themselves. Many of them didn’t even have an online presence for donations.”
It has been noticed within the funding community that smaller organizations have several barriers that impede their access to more traditional funding mechanisms. Acknowledging that, Horita says she spoke to Jerry Lee and this is how the project came about. She added that the decision to fund a significant number of Asian groups was completely donor driven. Jerry Lee, former Governor Gary Locke, and ArtsFund Associates Board Chair Judy Yu were instrumental in raising funds for this pilot project.
Horita adds, “We meet with arts groups every year and understand what their needs and challenges are. Earned income only does so much. These matching grants are a great opportunity for these groups to continue and advance their work.”
The organizations range from the well-established Densho (Japanese for ‘to pass on to the next generation’) that remembers and retell the stories of the many Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II, to Pratidhwani, a small volunteer-run organization located on the Eastside.
Speaking about his organization and what they plan to do with the grant, Tom Ikeda of Densho says, “The funds from ArtsFund will help us reach new audiences unaware of what happened to the Japanese Americans during World War II. The personal stories of the incarcerated Japanese Americans are a powerful reminder of how fear and hate can divide our country. We use our online resource at densho.org of over 900 video-recorded interviews to show the personal impact of racism and bigotry and their relevance to today.”
Ikeda explains that the funding will help Densho find and engage new supporters, which has become even more critical with funding cuts from the federal and national institutions.
Asia Pacific Cultural Center based in Tacoma is another organization that won the grant. “We work mainly across King and Pierce counties in schools, businesses, government offices, military departments, and the public to represent the culture of the 47 Asian and South Pacific Islands through history, food, language, artistry, dance, and music. The ArtsFund grant will make it possible for us to provide more art and cultural education to the community,” says Executive Director Lua Pritchard.
Horita explains that this is a great opportunity for smaller organizations to reach out to a new audience that may not be funders who they can cultivate a relationship with. “It’s not just the dollars, it’s what those dollars can do,” she said.
The grant recipients also become a part of the ArtsFund network of cultural partners and get access to free training, capacity building, leadership building, and networking events. They can then partner and resource share with larger or smaller organizations within the network.
The recipients of the 2017 Multicultural Arts grants are:
- Asia Pacific Cultural Center
- American Asian Performing Arts Theatre
- Central District Forum for Arts & Ideas
- Chinese Arts and Music Association
- Japan Arts Connection Lab
- ReAct Theatre: Seattle’s Multiethnic Philanthropic Theatre
- Red Eagle Soaring
- Seattle Asian American Film Festival
- Seattle Latino Film Festival
Janice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.