NEW YORK CITY: Theatre Communications Group (TCG) has announced the recipients of RECOGNIZE grants as part of the THRIVE! Uplifting Theatres of Color program. With $1,635,000 in support from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), TCG is working in partnership with an Advisory Circle of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to provide unrestricted funds for Black theatres, Indigenous theatres and Theatres of Color (BITOC) based in the U.S. (including Tribal Nations and U.S. Territories). In this inaugural round of the program, The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation has joined as a supporting partner for theatres in Western states.
The 22 theatres receiving RECOGNIZE grants include AlterTheater, Bindlestiff Studio, Breaking Wave Theatre Company, Eagle Project, East West Players, Golden Thread Productions, Hattiloo Theatre, Ikidowin Acting Ensemble, Junebug Productions, KC Melting Pot Theatre Productions, Last Call, Lower Depth Theatre, National Black Theatre, Native Voices at the Autry, New Native Theatre, Pangea World Theater, Penumbra, Safe Harbors NYC, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company (SFBATCO), Silk Road Rising, Su Teatro, and Teatro Vista.
“TCG is honored to provide unrestricted support to these visionary Theatres of Color and to learn with them through the REBUILD learning cohort,” said Teresa Eyring, executive director and CEO of TCG, in a statement. “Thanks to our partnership with Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the THRIVE! program can play an important part in addressing the ongoing legacy of systemic racism in our theatre field by investing in the artistry and abundance of these theatres. We are pleased that The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation has also offered support for THRIVE!, and hope this will inspire similar support from funders around the country.”
RECOGNIZE recipients were chosen through a competitive review process by BIPOC theatre and community leaders. Selection criteria included a deep level of service to their chosen communities, a clear vision guiding their ongoing and future work, and the highest potential for the THRIVE! program to positively impact their organization. The selection committee included Cole Alvis, leader, lemonTree creations, manidoons collective, and AdHoc Assembly; Brian Freeman, artist-in-residence, Booker T. Washington Center; Cynthia Fuhrman, vice president, executive search at Tom O’Connor Consulting Group, LLC; Tracy Francis, artistic director, Boom Arts; Minita Gandhi, multi-hyphenate artist and cultural leader; Daniel Jaquez, theatremaker, translator, and co-founder of TuYo Theatre; and Erica Lauren Ortiz, director of equity, diversity, & inclusion for Ford’s Theatre Society.
“These vibrant theatres are deeply connecting with their chosen communities through authentic and significant partnerships,” said Emilya Cachapero, TCG’s director of grantmaking programs in a statement. “An all-too-common narrative in the not-for-profit sector is the assumption that BITOC have only ‘needs’ and ‘challenges,’ and not solutions to larger field issues. Through the national spotlight of the THRIVE! program, we hope that others, both fellow grantmakers and theatre colleagues, will recognize their contributions and solutions to challenges and join in supporting the ingenuity and tenacity of these and many other vital BITOC.”
With few national opportunities for BITOC to apply for unrestricted funds, and with operating budget minimums often excluding smaller-budget BITOC, THRIVE! represents a more inclusive, equitable model of grantmaking. THRIVE! also breaks with the grantmaking norm of tying the award amount to the size of the theatre’s operating budget. Theatres from all U.S. states and territories were encouraged to apply, and THRIVE! marks the first time TCG has awarded a grant to a Guam-based theatre (Breaking Wave Theatre Company).
“We are thrilled to be supporting the THRIVE! program and to lift up these vital Theatres of Color and their invaluable work,” said Audrey Haberman, President and CEO of the Sheri & Les Biller Family Foundation in a statement. “We are grateful to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Theatre Communications Group for their leadership and I hope that other philanthropic organizations eager to support theatres of color and center efforts to address systemic racism in theatre will consider joining this important effort.”
During the grant program period, RECOGNIZE grantees will also participate in REBUILD: A Learning Cohort, working with BIPOC consultants to strengthen their effectiveness in specific areas which may include financial planning, crisis management, scenario planning, and program evaluation. Earlier in the year, THRIVE! awarded $10,000 RESPOND grants, providing unrestricted funds to BITOC to address immediate, time-sensitive challenges that prevent ongoing work with their community. TCG is looking to partner with additional funders to further augment the reach and impact of the THRIVE! program. Interested parties should contact LaTeshia Ellerson for more information.
“Although THRIVE! was launched during the pandemic, it is, in fact, a response to a challenge that has hindered realizing the full potential of the arts and culture sector for decades—the undercapitalization of BIPOC arts and culture organizations,” said Maurine Knighton, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in a statement. “We’re excited to partner with TCG, and to welcome the additional support of The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, to provide some of the critical tools that help address that issue, including general operating support, technical assistance, and visibility. The kind of holistic funding envisioned by the THRIVE! initiative is key to a healthy, vibrant cultural ecosystem, and we’re pleased to play a part in bringing it to life.”
Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for theatre and the publisher of American Theatre magazine, seeks to lead for a just and thriving theatre ecology. As of 2020, TCG’s approximate budget was $7.8 million.
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