Local arts organizations: “We are a worthwhile community investment”

Ten arts organizations from the Twin Cities serving the BIPOC communities have received grants to continue their missions.

ST PAUL, Minnesota — Even throughout the pandemic, the work of music teachers at Walker West Music Academy has not gone unrewarded.

“The pandemic has truly shown the courage and greatness of our instructors,” said executive director Braxton Haulcy. “I think I told you earlier, when the state shut down, we brought in people over the weekend, we trained them to take distance online courses, and we didn’t missed nothing.”

Haulcy said he was proud to have continued to serve the Twin Cities at a time when people needed healing the most.

But that doesn’t mean things were as smooth as the jazz they teach.

So when he heard that the McKnight Foundation was partnering with the Ford Foundation to provide $7 million in funding to BIPOC-led organizations working in the arts, it was music to his ears.

“It comes at a wonderful time,” Haulcy said. “It not only allows us to find a building, because a lot of times you think fundraising is about construction and infrastructure, but it also allows us to really expand our programming to serve the community. Really one of the things which is of great importance is that we want to attract more African-American students and more low-income students.And the African-American component aims to fill this opportunity gap that exists in the state of Minnesota.

With around $625,000 on the way, Haulcy said it was the largest lump sum Walker West had ever received.

The same is the case with Theater Mu, the second largest Asian American theater organization in the country.

“Theater in itself is a live construct, it’s something you want to feel the collective breath together,” said development director Wesley Mouri. “They say your heartbeats match when you’re in a theater together. Doing this virtually has been difficult, but our number one priority since the start of the pandemic has been to employ Asian performers who have been hit so hard by the pandemic shutdown.”

Mouri said that with this grant, they will continue that effort, with the larger mission of promoting diverse visibility in the arts.

“Funding like this is a bold step to redress the disparity that often occurs in funding for organizations of color,” Mouri said. “There’s a history of not being able to find the support and find the money honestly, to do the work that we want to do and celebrate the stories that we want to celebrate. So we’re really grateful to be a part of that.”

So why invest in the arts at this time?

“In this present moment, between George Floyd and racial tensions in the state of Minnesota, we need healing, and music brings healing,” Haulcy said.

“The arts are really important now as we move forward and hopefully we can come together in space,” Mouri added. “We want to look back and reflect on what we’ve been through, but we also want to look forward and continue in a fairer and more just world. I think the arts are a very big factor in that.”

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