Arts organizations across Southeast Michigan get $500,000 boost

Several neighborhood and community-based arts organizations across southeast Michigan received part of a $500,000 grant to support their work — from photography and music education to filmmaking and youth theaters.

The grants are a part of a broader, multiyear $100 million commitment from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to bolster arts and culture in the region through an endowment at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

“It was really great to see how many different artistic disciplines came through,” said Greg Yankee, director of arts and environmental Initiatives at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

Funding opportunities can be out of reach for small and mid-sized arts organizations that may not have a grant writing or development background, Yankee said. Organizers defined these groups as having an operating revenue of under $2 million.

“There are a lot of funding opportunities for arts and culture in Southeast Michigan. We’re pretty lucky in that regard compared to other regions. But that can often leave out some of the smaller organizations. The opportunity might not be as accessible to them ,” he said.

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Sidewalk Detroit, which produces festivals in alleys, gardens and parks across city neighborhoods, received $20,000. The organization focuses on public art, said executive director Ryan Myers-Johnson, and that can look like sculptures, murals and performances.

“We’re looking for places that community members are looking to revitalize, and we commission work to fit that space,” Myers-Johnson said. “So, it could be a lot vacant, it could be a storefront, an alley. The goal is that it’s an outdoor public space that community members are looking to celebrate or revitalize in some way.”

In 2023, the organization will celebrate 10 years and the next sidewalk festival will take place in the summer. The grant allows Sidewalk Detroit to accomplish its mission, Myers-Johnson said.

“It allows us to pay artists and also pay community members for their time working with us,” Myers-Johnson said.

Among the other 28 nonprofits that received grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000:

  • Capturing Belief, a Detroit-based nonprofit, received $20,000 for a studio and its work around helping Detroit students learn the craft and business of photography.

  • Detroit Narrative Agency received $20,000 to support an emerging filmmaker workshop series.

  • The Historic Elmwood Foundation received $17,500 to preserve the history of the Elmwood Cemetery and develop community programs.

  • The Black and Brown Theater received $10,000 for live performances and workshops with elementary school students in Detroit.

  • All The World’s A Stage received $7,500 for theater arts education for kindergarten through eighth grade students in Macomb County.

“Arts and culture programs are often the first to be cut during economic challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic but are among the most vital assets when it comes to creating a desirable place to live, work and play in the long term,” said Richard DeVore, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, in a news release.

The $100 million donation creates a permanent funding stream for 11 of the region’s biggest arts and culture institutions, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Arab American National Museum and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. It also supports yearly grants for small and mid-sized nonprofits.

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at

Contact Nushrat: [email protected]; 313-348-7558. Follow her on Twitter: @NushratR.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Arts nonprofits get $500K gift from Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

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