Making an Impact: The Wheaton Cultural Project Grants

The Wheaton Cultural Grants, now in its second year, has supported artists and scholars interested in launching cultural and creative projects in the County’s youngest arts & entertainment district. Below, AHCMC’s Grants Manger Nabil Ghachem discusses the impact our grantmaking activities in Wheaton.

In 2015, we launched the Wheaton Cultural Project Grants category with the aim at invigorating its Arts and Entertainment District by supporting creative and cultural projects in the diverse and burgeoning community of  Wheaton, Maryland. The first round of the Wheaton Cultural Project Grants, funded by Montgomery County Council and the the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County had the following successes:

Diversity in pool of applicants
The pool of applicants represents diverse ethnicities and cultures, including Cambodian, Indian, Latin-American, and African-American. Out of the 22 applicants, AHCMC was able to fund 12. This indicates that given Wheaton’s cultural diversity, and if provided with the appropriate and adequate arts and cultural venues, Wheaton could be a magnet for arts performances and cultural events.

Diversity in art forms and scholarly disciplines

The FY15 Wheaton Cultural Project Grants included 4 outdoor projects that are open to the community, each featuring a specific art form (visual arts, theatre, dance, and music); 3 humanities projects that highlight the diversity of Wheaton communities and the urban nature that involves children, youth, and families; and 5 multi-discipline arts project that including poetry, film, documentary, chorale, and photography.

The Wheaton Cultural Project Grants helped artists, scholars, and non-profit groups to develop business acumen and think as entrepreneurs. During both pre and post award, applicants were able to connect with businesses, community organizations, and schools and were able to receive an estimated in-kind support and sponsorships for their projects of more than $60,000.

Combining the evaluative data with the values that guide the Wheaton Cultural Project grant may constitute a more complete story about our impact. Demographic realities, regional disparities, and access are a constant reminder of what should guide our approach to support the arts and the humanities. This is particularly important as it reflects national best practices among the field of arts philanthropy. The issue of diversity and racial equity in grantmakers’ portfolio has generated numerous discussion among private, public and corporate arts funders nationwide. The Grantsmakers in the Arts recent statement about Racial Equity in Arts Philanthropy calls on funders to be explicit in their intentions and provides language in their guidelines that specifically takes into consideration the demographic changes and the under-representation of some communities of their grants portfolio.
To that end, the Wheaton Cultural Project Grants guidelines includes the following statement: AHCMC encourages proposals submitted by Asian, Latino/a, African, Arab, and Native American (ALAANA) artists, arts organizations, and communities. This enforces AHCMC role as a social changemaker that focuses on actual debates with an eye on future challenges.
The Wheaton Cultural Project Grant is one step in that direction.