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The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta will host a webinar Friday to explain new guidelines for Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund Covid-19 emergency funds that are intended to open up the process for Black-led organizations.

The foundation, which oversees the Arts Fund, handed out $580,000 in emergency grants to arts groups in May in response to the pandemic. But none of the 11 grants in the initial funding cycle went to Black-led organizations. That omission received strong pushback from 30 Black-led arts groups, which said that just 10 percent of the Arts Fund grant monies have gone to Black-led organizations since the fund was established in 1993. 

Only one Black-led arts group applied for the emergency funds, and it said the onerous process used for the Arts Fund — including requirements for a financial audit and a full-time W-2 employee — “disproportionally disqualify” Black organizations.

After a meeting with leaders from those organizations last month, the Community Foundation agreed to revise its guidelines for later rounds of Covid-19 emergency funding. “The Community Foundation received criticism and feedback from the community regarding our first round of Arts Fund grants,” the nonprofit said in a statement posted on its website. “Given the foundation’s commitment to equity of opportunity [and] equitable grant making, it is our intention to honor the requests and promises made to prioritize racial equity in the Arts Fund’s grant making. We will do this by prioritizing organizations founded and led by people of color, especially Black-founded and Black-led organizations.”

The foundation said it has adjusted the program’s eligibility criteria and streamlined the application process.

Heather Infantry, the executive director of Generator who organized the Community Foundation meeting, said in a statement that the new guidelines meet their expectations in terms of removing terms that automatically disqualify Black applicants. 

But she said the next round of grants will not be made until August 28, which may be too late for some groups that are struggling to survive the pandemic. “The timeline . . . is way too long given we’re still in a pandemic,” Infantry said. “This significantly impacts Black organizations who are in dire need and are having to postpone revenue-generating activities to 2021.”

Infantry also expressed concern with the foundation’s review committee, saying it isn’t inclusive of artists or members with strong ties to the Black arts community.

She said the groups have demanded that at least an equal share of the remaining $1 million in available funding go to Black organizations. “I am closely tracking all of the Black organizations that apply and their request amounts, so I can compare them to the foundation’s final awards,” she said.

She said Black arts groups will form a task force to set up an equity agenda for the Arts Fund that will give priority to Black arts organizations in the future.

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