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The City of Austin Economic Development Department

City of Austin, Total Funding for the Arts By Race or Ethnicity

Current Value




Line Bar Comparison

About the Data

  • White led organizations and artists who identify as white - getting the bulk of the funding, funding is going down, 10% decrease each year
  • Black or African American led organizations and artists who identify as Black or African Americans
    • Clearly an increase in terms of the percentage of the whole (intentional weighting of the criteria)
    • Small population of African Americans in Austin, this will never be a huge amount but ATX wants it to grow, want the proportion to be outsized
  • Latino - same growth, although Latinos are much larger segment, need it to grow as well (the weight to traditional received applications… need to grow the application, the funding)
  • No single group represented - Self-identified, multiracial, groups that aren’t made up of any one single group, way to be counted
  • Majority minority doesn’t break down who is in that group
  • Important background to all of this: amount of total funding has been cut in half due to financial constraints from COVID

Story Behind the Curve

Why is there a large percentage going to white led organizations?

  • Old economic development philosophy focused on organizations' financial health
    • Favored "stable" organizations with more cash-on-hand, invested on better bets
  • Requirement of CPA-audited documents
  • More white organizations, more white applications
  • Award can be no more than a certain % of a budget - and white organizations tend to have larger budgets
    • More discretionary income amongst the white community
    • Penalizes POC organizations who don’t have a large budget 
  • Prioritized Eurocentric artmaking as better/best
  • Tough shifting away from a systemic norm that’s been inequitable
  • Unclear how the city’s commitment to equity manifests itself in the application, selection, and award-making process
  • Panelists that review the applications are external
    • Always a challenge to diversify the panelists
    • Training provided to panelists is technical in nature, perhaps not deep enough
    • Panelists are paid but there is a certain level of economic stability required to serve as a panelist (happens during work day)
  • ATX strives for inclusivity across a plentitude of categories and when there is a small number of panelists participating it can be tough to account for all categories
  • Entitlement - people subscribe over and over again, expectation that given they regularly receive funds at some level or higher; that it will continue to be a significant resource
  • When turned down, some groups have pursued advocacy from local officials
    • Disaggregated data can help to address this
  • Familiarity with the system and understanding how to navigate it

Why are Black and Latino organizations receiving a smaller amount overall?

  • Black or Latino organizations receiving smaller awards
  • Org support (20 out of 400, 5% get a third of the funding and only one minority organization in that group)
  • Smaller percentage of the applicant pool
    • 20 of the 400 are black; 50 of the 400 are Latino
  • Why is there a smaller applicant pool?
    • Don’t see the funding is for them
    • Lack of trust in process
      • Lack of trust in government as well (data requested can be seen as intrusive)
        • E.g., disaster relief check, information was seen as onerous
      • Documentation status
    • Limited outreach/connectivity/relationship
    • Heavy reliance on social media
      • Cultural considerations for BIPOC communities?
    • Application is challenging
    • It’s a lot of work to apply for funding and to receive the funding
      • Reporting, payments
      • And if they don’t get much or aren’t funded can be highly discouraging
  • Black or Latino organizations are smaller in size – why?
    • They are not nonprofits and therefore miss out on other funding streams (foundations, etc.)
    • Grassroots staff, can be unpaid
    • Haven’t invested in board leadership
    • Not enough corporate support, donations, federal money
  • Matching requirement

    • BIPOC led organizations have less cash or access to funds, limits the ask amount and/or can disqualify

    • ATX is correcting this in its funding processes

  • Organizations undervalue their services and therefore ask for less


  • African-American community district
  • Austin Community College
  • Black churches
  • Capitol View Arts
  • Chambers of Commerce (Hispanic/Greater Black)
  • City of Austin Quality of Life Commissions
  • Community Champions*
  • Community organizers
  • Community places
  • Creative Space NP relief grant - do
  • Equity Action Team from the Equity Office (mobilized and equity focused) can help amplify the message
  • Equity Office - provide equity data
  • Huston-Tillotson University - serving as a community convener
  • La Pena
  • Partners on the Community Outreach list across departments (housing, music, preservation, Public Austin, etc.)
  • Restaurants
  • Caution: putting more work on communities of color can be challenging, how do we put the onus on white allies?



The following solutions were identified by the CBER Austin team as potentially impactful in Turning the Curve for more equitable arts funding:

  1. Change how the city defines "artistic quality" (to broaden beyond Eurocentric characteristics) 
    1. Engage communities of color in the redefinition
    2. Remove artistic quality as a component in the scoring rubric?
  2. Modify application and award guidelines to better support BIPOC organizations 
    1. Be more clear in the guidelines, application process, and awards about ATX commitment to equity 
      1. How does ATX define equity?
      2. Why is ATX committed to equity?
      3. What was inequitable about the process previously?
      4. What is equitable now in the applications and awards?
    2. Redesign the application and award process in collaboration with communities of color 
      1. Application modification 
        1. Simplify and automate the application process as much as possible
        2. Lead with demographic data in the application 
          1. Identify areas of the city with higher concentrations of BIPOC residents (maybe by zip code?)
        3. Expand guidelines on cultural significance
        4. Implement an insurance waiver (which helps smaller organizations with less financial reservoirs)
        5. Make project management fees eligible for use in the award (10% up to $10K)
        6. Expand eligibility to artists who live in ATX but perform their work outside of ATX (because they have difficulty finding an audience in ATX)
    3. Changes to panel review 
      1. Require panelists to complete "Undoing Racism, Equity in Grant Making" training
      2. Shift to only doing panels in a virtual format (to increase access to the opportunity to participate)
      3. Eliminate panels altogether
    4. Publicly acknowledge that the laws which form the bedrock of institutions in the city are based on long standing opinions rooted in favoring one demographic over another (and perpetuating inequity) 
      1. Engage ATX legal department to reconsider how it views, approaches, or enforces rules or regulations 
        1. Historical approach is to be risk averse (and avoid lawsuits)
        2. Another approach is to protect the interests of citizens (or not be afraid of a legal challenge)
  • Nota Buena: ATX has already removed "project readiness" and replaced that with the term "Community Benefit"

Action Plan

What we are doing: Change how the city defines "artistic quality" (to broaden beyond Eurocentric characteristics)

Action Plan:




Finalize COA definition of equity/ and why we are committed.

All (CAD, HT, MED)


Communicate with the public about that definition and why the previous process was inequitable/ how it relates to our funding review. 

Meghan + Laura (+all as programs start rolling out)

Done (see new website)

Working group with AAC + Community; Community “Survey” Tool to center voices of color in the operationalized equity conversation (HR@A)

Laura + Meghan

November 15, 2021

Streamlining application/ Guidelines/ communication for increased accessibility (taking feedback and incorporating it)

All (CAD, HT, MED)

Ongoing (Council + Law conversations are complicating deadlines a bit)

What we are doing: Modify application and award guidelines to better support BIPOC organizations 

Action Plan:




Applicant demo questions have been centralized in Portal

Casey Smith

David Gray

Done but now pending review via Law

  • Identify areas of the city with higher concentrations of BIPOC residents (maybe by zip code?)
  • ARPA relief & recovery programs using qualified census tracts as a way to identify population areas.

Casey Smith

David Gray

In process

  • Expand guidelines on cultural significance (strive for a shared definition of “culturally significant” and program-eligibility): 
  • MED: Preservation, Innovation, Elevation & Collaboration equity core principals in program guidelines
  • CAD:ensure guidelines embrace a diverse range/understanding of “culture” for applicants/reviewers

· HT:

MED - Kim McCarson


CAD - Laura Odegaard


HT - Sehila Casper

MED: Done





  • Implement an insurance waiver (which helps smaller organizations with less financial reservoirs)

· All HOT Program

Michelle Clemons

Sylnovia Holt-Rabb

Benny VandenAvond

In process

  • Make project management fees eligible for use in the award (10% up to $10K)

· Related to HT construction projects.

HT: Melissa Alvarado

In process

  • Expand eligibility to artists who live in ATX but perform their work outside of ATX (because they have difficulty finding an audience in ATX)

· Expanding eligibility to applicants in MSA (all programs)

Casey Smith


  • Tourism marketing training for applicants:

· Miles Partnership pitch for all HOT programs

Peggy Ellithorpe??

In process

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