Featured above: Houston artist Robert Hodge’s mixed media collage on reclaimed paper entitled “I Can Change the Color of Your Mood Ring.” Learn more about Robert’s work

Today, Houston Endowment announced it has joined the Ford Foundation in an unprecedented initiative to recognize “America’s Cultural Treasures,” with a commitment of at least $10 million in Houston. Together, the funders will support Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous arts organizations in communities that have been historically marginalized, underfunded, and underrepresented in the narrative of American culture and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In collaboration with other local funders and ultimately our region’s non-profit art community, Houston Endowment will lead a program to identify regional grant recipients as “America’s Cultural Treasures” in order to acknowledge and honor Houston’s diversity of expression and excellence. The funds are intended to provide general operating and capacity-building support to these long-standing arts organizations and enable them to not only weather the pandemic, but to be stronger, and more resilient going forward.

The regional campaign was seeded by an initial $35 million in support from the Ford Foundation across seven regions, with local foundations driving fundraising and design for individually tailored grantmaking initiatives. The Barr Foundation (Massachusetts), Getty Foundation (Los Angeles), Heinz Endowments (Pittsburgh), Houston Endowment (Houston), John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (Chicago), Joyce Foundation (Chicago), McKnight Foundation (Minnesota), The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation (Los Angeles), the Terra Foundation for American Art (Chicago), and William Penn Foundation (Philadelphia) will provide matching funds for multi-year grants to cultural groups of color with exceptional regional or local significance. The scope and recipients of each program will be announced in early 2021.

These regional efforts are part of a new $156 million national initiative by the Ford Foundation — with leadership support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and Barbara and Amos Hostetter, and additional support from the Abrams Foundation, Alice L. Walton Foundation, and Tom and Lisa Blumenthal —that aims to support what Ford described as arts and culture groups “that have been historically marginalized, underfunded and underrepresented in the narrative of American culture.” Through the national initiative, 20 organizations, including Project Row Houses in Houston were recognized as significant anchors for cultural diversity from across the country. The art and expression these organizations cultivate and preserve reflect the rich cultural identity and traditions within the United States.

“Houston’s cultural organizations of color celebrate our region’s extraordinary diversity and foster our connections to each other. This initiative, which will provide meaningful support to important organizations during a time of great challenge, carries with it the potential to transform the funding landscape and significantly advance racial equity,” said Ann Stern, President and CEO of the Houston Endowment. “We are grateful to the Ford Foundation for creating this opportunity and proud to represent the Houston area in this work.”

Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation said, “These organizations represent the very highest ideals of artistic excellence and are truly America’s cultural treasures. We hope that other arts philanthropists and corporations will join in increasing support to the many cultural organizations that reflect our nation’s rich and diverse history.”