NALAC Receives Research Grant from The Wallace Foundation

by Jessica Fuentes December 20, 2023

The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) is one of eleven organizations across the U.S. that has been awarded a grant from The Wallace Foundation to conduct research on issues related to arts organizations of color and the communities they serve.

The Wallace Foundation, founded by DeWitt and Lila Wallace, is dedicated to fostering equity and advancement in the arts, school leadership, and youth development. In 2021, the foundation launched a multi-year, $104 million arts initiative in support of organizations rooted in communities of color. According to a press release by the Wallace, the initiative is meant to “advance their well-being, enhance understanding of their contributions to community, and ultimately to help build a more equitable and sustainable arts ecosystem.”

In May 2022, the Wallace selected 18 organizations, spanning visual and performing arts, media arts, and community-based organizations, to participate in the first phase of the initiative. This phase included the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio. These organizations are implementing projects to support their well-being, as well as to collect insights about themselves and their audiences. Some overarching questions that the Wallace Foundation is considering are: “How do arts organizations founded by and for communities of color define their well-being and that of their communities? How do they work towards it?”

In May 2023, the Wallace announced eight organizations that were selected to participate in its Field Studies program, a part of the larger multi-year initiative which specifically pairs arts organizations with researchers to conduct studies to better understand the issues facing nonprofit arts organizations of color. Since then, the Wallace has expanded the strands of research that it supports to include Community Cultural Development (CCD), and Research-Practice Partnerships (RPPs) with Arts Organizations of Color. The foundation defines these additional research initiatives as follows:

CCD: Community development organizations founded by, with, and for communities of color conduct studies in partnership with researchers to produce insights into the spectrum of community cultural development approaches that support the well-being of communities of color through the arts.

RPPs: Scholars and research teams work in partnership with arts organizations of color to address shared questions of interest and importance to the field and to scholarship. These grants include early career scholars from a wide variety of disciplines to encourage and expand interest in conducting research in the context of the arts and culture.

The grantees announced last month, reflect all three research strands of the foundation’s initiative. The following organizations have been awarded a total of $2.8 million to engage in their respective research projects: Camden FireWorks (Camden, New Jersey), Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco (San Francisco, California), Critical Ecology Lab (Oakland, California), Kyoung’s Pacific Beat (Brooklyn, New York), Latinx Theatre Commons (Boston, Massachusetts), Media and Data Equity Lab at Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois), Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Utica, Mississippi), National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (San Antonio, Texas), National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (Oakland, California and Washington, D.C.), Silk Road Rising (Chicago, Illinois), and Support Oakland Artists (Oakland, California).

Mina Matlon, the Wallace’s Consultant Research Officer in the Arts, explained, “In its approach to these research grants, Wallace is listening to the needs of the field and equipping organizations with the space and support they need to explore issues that affect them firsthand. From Black feminist narrative inquiry, cultural mapping, critical ecology, and much more, these projects will embrace equity-focused research approaches that are directly informed by the communities they seek to uplift.”

A photograph of a group of people gathered outside of a mural.

National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures

NALAC’s research project will be in partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago, a nonpartisan research organization, to replicate and expand on its 2019 State of Latino Arts & Culture Organizations assessment. Specifically, the organization’s goal is to gather data and stories to better understand the struggles faced by Latinx arts organizations in order to create tools and resources to support Latinx art leaders. 

In a press release by NALAC, its Manager of Research, Lucila Lagace, noted, “Together with NORC, we will document how Latinx arts organizations define their organizational well-being, how they work toward it, and how it enables the contributions they make to their communities.”

Learn more about the Wallace’s initiative to support arts organizations and communities of color via the foundation’s website. The foundation is currently accepting letters of intent from organizations founded by, for, and with communities of color for Field Studies (deadline: February 23, 2024) and RPPs (deadline: January 19, 2024).

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