ArtsWestchester announces a major new competitive artist grant program, Voices for Change, in which three artists will be awarded grants of $10,000 to propose and actualize new works. This is the first new program in a series of initiatives that the organization is undertaking as part of its rededication to the social justice ideals of equity, diversity, inclusion and access.
Beginning in the summer of 2020, ArtsWestchester began working with a well-known consultant in the field of racial equity and inclusion, Donna Walker-Kuhne, who had previously worked with ArtsWestchester to develop its diversity and policy in 2005. As an organization, ArtsWestchester is well on its way toward reframing its mission, rededicating itself to social justice in all of its programs, and launching seven new initiatives in the coming year. These initiatives represent, in part, expanded funding opportunities for artists and organizations, and public programs that will be rolled out during 2021.
“ArtsWestchester has a long history of supporting historically under-represented communities,” says ArtsWestchester CEO Janet Langsam. “We want to ensure that our programming continues to respond to the people we serve, especially our immigrant and indigenous communities, and communities of color. We want to listen more closely to, and honor the expressions of, diverse voices in our community. Voices for Change is one way to focus on concerns of equity.”
The Voices for Change grant initiative is made possible through contributions from board members and the Kathwari Foundation. Ethan Allen CEO and ArtsWestchester board member Farooq Kathwari says: “This grant that supports new artistic work comes at a critical time for creatives, when so many independent artists are unemployed as a result of the pandemic. The Voices for Change grant acknowledges that art can serve as a catalyst for change.”
Mid-Hudson Valley regional artists working in all disciplines are invited to submit proposals for visionary work that encourages deep thinking about complex issues such as social justice, civic equity and the public good. A unique aspect of the program is that proposals are asked to include a collaboration with a service or cultural community-based organization. Three artists will receive a grant of $10,000 to implement and present their vision. Proposals may address a broad range of issues, including but not limited to incarceration, homelessness or racial equity. The deadline for application is April 5.
Speaking for the Voices for Change Committee, ArtsWestchester board member Betty Himmel says: “ArtsWestchester’s exhibition and performance programs are deeply rooted in the belief that art has the power to illuminate complex issues, encourage civic discourse and open the community to new ways of thinking. In past programs, ArtsWestchester has explored themes such as the new immigrant experience, gender identity, voting rights, the expanded definition of family, the age of data, and the economic crisis of 2008.”
The debut of the Voices for Change artworks will come on the heels of ArtsWestchester’s fall exhibition Who Writes History? a National Endowment for the Arts supported project that seeks to bring marginalized stories to the fore through contemporary art.
ArtsWestchester plans to announce additional social justice initiatives throughout the coming months.
A version of this article first appeared in the February issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNewsis distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.