The following notes accompany our feature article Making Sense of Cultural Equity, published on August 31, 2016:

(1) (Some) cultural equity pioneers

Our goal with this article is not to present a detailed history of the movement for cultural equity. Still, there are many artists, activists and arts institutions who have contributed significantly to this movement, and whom we would be remiss not to acknowledge. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a handful of pioneers and pioneering institutions whose work we have followed in our research, and to whom we owe a great deal: 

(2) Equity is not just an nonprofit arts concern

The mandate to make institutions more reflective of a rapidly changing country is one that transcends the federal tax code. The for-profit entertainment industry, too, has been forced to confront the status quo in recent years, what with #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsStillSoWhite, #StarringJohnCho, the gender pay inequality debacle, studies showing minorities and women lagging behind in all film and TV categories (with particularly low numbers of LGBT and Latino players), studies bemoaning the dearth of women on screen and behind the camera, and studies revealing a lack of diversity in the publishing industry, and in Hollywood writers’ rooms.

(3) What we mean when we say ‘mainstream’ and ‘of color’:

Language can be a source of great confusion in conversations about cultural equity, and many commonly-used terms are highly contested. In this article, we employ several key concepts that can benefit from further elaboration. Please consider the following definitions as you read:

Mainstream institutions: In the course of our reading, we came across the term “mainstream” institutions or organizations with some frequency. Although rarely defined explicitly, we infer that this term typically denotes nonprofit organizations that 1) were founded by white people; 2) do not have a focus on an art form or an audience connected with a specific community of color or other oppressed community; 3) receive funding from foundation and government sources; and 4) have some professional staff.

Target community: We generally understand mainstream institutions’ target community to include all people in a local geographic area.

Institutions of color: We use this term to describe cultural institutions founded and led by artists of color that successfully pursue growth and long-term financial solvency through the following strategies: recruitment of a board with fundraising skills and/or connections to wealth; recruitment of new individual donors; and cultivation of new sources of institutional funding, particularly from private foundations.

“Of color”: We consider this descriptor synonymous, at least in the United States context, with the Grantmakers in the Arts-preferred term ALAANA. ALAANA stands for African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab, and Native American people and communities.


The following sources were particularly central to our research for this article. We recommend them for further reading:

Matlon, M. P., Van Haastrecht, I., & Wittig Mengüç, K. (2014). Figuring the Plural: Needs and Supports of Canadian and US Ethnocultural Arts Organizations. Chicago, IL: Plural. Retrieved from http://www.pluralculture.org/programs-services/figuring-the-plural-book/

Mauldin, B., Laramee Kidd, S., & Ruskin, J. (2016). LA County Arts Commission Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative: Literature Review. Retrieved from http://www.lacountyarts.org/UserFiles/File/CEII_LitRev_Final.pdf

Moreno Vega, M. (1993). Voices from the Battlefront: Achieving Cultural Equity. Trenton, N.J: Africa World Press.

Sidford, H. (2011). Fusing Arts, Culture, and Social Change. National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Retrieved from http://www.ncrp.org/files/publications/Fusing_Arts_Culture_Social_Change.pdf


Full Bibliography

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