Addressing Equity

We at Mid-America Arts Alliance are committed to demonstrating our commitment to diversity and equity through policies, practices, programs, and services. You can read more about our specific goals in our Strategic Plan. Our values are these:

  • Freedom of cultural and creative expression is fundamental to humanity.
  • The arts and humanities encourage empathy and further the understanding of diverse cultures and traditions.
  • Collaborations and partnerships leverage creativity, resources, and experience to expand possibilities.
  • Thriving arts communities contribute to prosperous, successful societies.
  • Service to the arts ecosystem of the region is infused with innate curiosity and a creative approach to innovation, within an environment that allows for risk taking and ongoing learning.
  • Commitment to equitable policies, inclusive practices, and celebration of the rich diversity of our region permeate our organizational structure and our service to the region.

Learn more about what M-AAA is doing to address inequity in our region below.

A Path Forward: Program Expansion + Consultancy

In February 2021, we announced that Margie Johnson Reese would be partnering with the organization as Consultant, bringing her expertise in Arts Administration to help guide our work toward achieving the Equity and Inclusion goals and objectives of our strategic plan.

Priorities include: building a racially diverse workforce; providing professional development and coaching for the staff and board; and supporting the infusion of inclusive and anti-racist practices throughout the organization’s internal and external service delivery.

Previously serving as a Board member for Mid-America Arts Alliance from Wichita Falls, Texas, Reese most recently developed the Wichita Falls Arts Council as a new arts service organization that services a multi-county region that includes both urban and rural communities. Reese has made significant contributions to the field of Arts Administration as an educator and consultant, focusing on arts education, cultural planning, leadership development, and public policy design centered around racial equity.

“This work is very important to me, and I’m happy to continue to be a resource for Mid-America Arts Alliance as the organization deepens its commitment to equity and access,” said Reese.

Todd Stein, President and CEO of Mid-America Arts Alliance said, “Mid-America staff and Board are thrilled to be working with someone as exceptional as Reese, as we do this essential work to better serve our region. We look forward to listening and growing under her expertise. It’s important that our constituents and our peers know that we are committed to inclusion and that we are always processing how to be better at responding to the needs of all. We strive to ensure that commitment to equitable policies, inclusive practices, and celebration of the rich diversity of our region permeate our organizational structure and our service to the region.”

Over $1.5million: US Regional Arts Resilience Fund Grants

In August 2020, Mid-America Arts Alliance announced the twenty-seven recipients of our region’s US Regional Arts Resilience Fund Grants. A program created through collaboration with our five sister US Regional Arts Organizations, Arts Midwest, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, South Arts, and Western States Arts Federation, the USRARF was funded through a $10 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and amplified in the Mid-America region through additional funding from The Windgate Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas for visual arts organizations. The grant amounts ranged between $30,000 and $100,000, a significant investment supporting the resilience of small to mid-sized arts organizations that are led by or supporting communities of color, rural communities, and historically underresourced populations, in response to the impact of COVID-19.

“We are honored to provide this critical support to these extraordinary arts organizations within the Mid-America region,” said Mid-America Arts Alliance President and CEO Todd Stein. “In focusing on organizations led by or supporting communities of color and rural communities, we reinforce the importance of these organizations and their vital role within our arts ecosystems. The arts have the power to unite, uplift, and propel our region forward, and it is a crucial need to fund these organizations that are often overlooked and historically underresourced.”

The United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund provided non-matching grants to arts and cultural organizations across the US that face economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund targeted rural and urban organizations that have statewide, regional, or national impact. These grants support small and mid-sized arts organizations of all artistic disciplines, especially those that are historically underresourced, and those representing underresourced populations, communities, and art forms. The grants support expenses associated with general operations, immediate response activities, future scenario planning, support for new media needs, help with the costs of collaborations, and costs associated with helping organizations reimagine their work and increase their resilience. M-AAA acknowledges the close collaborative partnership with the Arkansas Arts Council, Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission, Missouri Arts Council, Nebraska Arts Council, Oklahoma Arts Council, and the Texas Commission on the Arts and their advocacy for and understanding of the importance of these crucial funds to support rural and underresourced organizations across the region.

Here is the list of grantees:

American Jazz Museum, Kansas City, Missouri; $50,000
Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, Pine Bluff, Arkansas; $75,000
Black Archives of Mid-America, Kansas City, Missouri; $30,000
Black Liberated Arts Center, Inc., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; $30,000
Cara Mía Theatre Company, Dallas, Texas; $65,000
Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas, Texas; $85,000
Dance of Asian America, Houston, Texas; $40,000
DeltaARTS, West Memphis, Arkansas; $50,000
El Museo Latino, Omaha, Nebraska; $50,000
The Ensemble Theatre, Houston, Texas; $75,000
Greenwood Cultural Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma; $100,000
InterUrban ArtHouse, Overland Park, Kansas; $65,115
Kansas African American Museum, Wichita, Kansas; $40,000
Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin, Texas; $75,000
Mid-America All-Indian Center Museum, Wichita, Kansas; $30,000
National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, San Antonio, Texas; $65,000
National Blues Museum, St. Louis, Missouri; $65,000
Nebraska Writers Collective, Omaha, Nebraska; $40,000
Norman Arts and Humanities Council, Norman, Oklahoma; $65,000
Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; $50,000
Prison Performing Arts, St. Louis, Missouri; $33,375
Project Row Houses, Houston, Texas; $85,000
Salina Art Center, Salina, Kansas; $40,000
SAY Sí, San Antonio, Texas; $63,900
St. Louis ArtWorks, St. Louis, Missouri; $63,610
Teatro Dallas, Dallas, Texas; $30,000
Union for Contemporary Art, Omaha, Nebraska; $75,000

(Pictured: Dallas Black Dance Theatre, photo by Amitava Sarkar.)

Interchange Artist Grants

The Interchange program launched in 2019 as a twenty-four-month pilot supporting artists working in communities of varying sizes and characteristics throughout the region with project grants of $20,000; professional development retreats with all Interchange grantees; and ongoing mentoring through the life of the funded projects. Interchange is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Interchange program recognizes the role of individual artists as change agents and connectors in the cities and towns where they reside. With an innate understanding of process and experience as problem-solvers, artists possess the skills, training, and vision to collaborate across sectors, stimulate dialogue, activate neighborhoods, and creatively respond to civic challenges.

Todd Stein, M-AAA President and CEO, says “We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for their continuing support of this program that allows us to highlight the contributions of social practice artists embedded in their communities.”

Learn more about previous and current Interchange grantees here.


Land and Labor Acknowledgement

We at Mid-America Arts Alliance collectively acknowledge that our offices as well as the six-state region that we serve are located on the occupied ancestral lands of First American Nations. M-AAA’s headquarters in Kansas City, MO resides on land cared for by the Kanza (today the Kaw Nation), the Osage, and the Očeti Šakówiŋ (the Great Sioux Nation) peoples. We recognize the history of forced relocation by the United States government of many First American Nations from their tribal homelands to our region in the late eighteenth century and throughout the nineteenth century.

The Indigenous peoples’ connection to this land has been challenged by violence, disease, treaties, invading settlers, relocations, forced removals, reservation termination policies, and other colonial actions; however, throughout this turbulent history, this land has continued to hold great historical, spiritual, and personal significance for the original land stewards of this region.

We thank the members of the First American communities and sovereign nations in our region today for their continued service of the land and for innumerable contributions to the region.

We acknowledge the legacy of slavery in our region and the enslaved African people whose labor was exploited for generations to help establish the economy of our region and the United States, specifically the production and harvest of surplus crops and land cultivation. An estimated 10 million enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas beginning in the 1500s until 1867. Countless millions of black people suffered in bondage in the United States until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865 abolished slavery and indentured servitude.

The end of slavery was followed by a series of discriminatory and repressive laws that created a racial caste system that legitimized anti-black racism. The gruesome legacy of slavery, and the racist laws and practices that continue to be passed and implemented, impact American culture and our institutions at every level.

The labor of slaves built many of the civic and federal institutions with which we all interact and benefit from each day. The economics of the transatlantic slave trade and the exportation of cotton allowed the United States to position itself as a leader in global trade for centuries. Our nation continues to profit financially from the exploitation of the descendants of enslaved Africans.

We acknowledge the harm that colonialism and white supremacy have brought to these lands, in particular the erasure of both First American and African identities via racist laws that segregated all peoples. By recognizing the land that was taken from First Americans and the forced labor that was provided by enslaved Africans and black people, Mid-America Arts Alliance is acknowledging that we understand that the foundation of our country, the United States of America, and the roots that it created in order to grow and thrive, are based in colonialism, racism, and indignity. It is only by recognition and understanding these errors that were made during our nation’s origins that we can hope to correct our path.

Mid-America Alliance honors the Indigenous and enslaved peoples’ contributions and stewardship of the plains and waterways throughout our service area. We honor and celebrate their resilience. We commit to creating a future founded on respect and healing the deepest generational wounds by building bridges and mutual understanding. We will continue to re-educate ourselves about the histories and experiences of all peoples in our region.

Mid-America Arts Alliance is grateful to those who helped us develop this Land & Labor Acknowledgement. From their research, experience, knowledge, and advice, we are more aware of how our nation’s past has impacted our present and how we can take steps toward a more equitable future. We want to recognize Haskell Indian Nations University, Lona Barrick of the Chickasaw Nation, Stephanie Seber, Carris Adams, and Mid-America’s DEIA Task Force for their efforts and contributions to this statement.

Meeting the Needs of Our Constituents: Conversations

Mid-America Arts Alliance is pleased to have been able to facilitate funding for historically underresourced organizations through the US Regional Arts Resilience Fund in response to the challenges highlighted by the COVID pandemic.

We recognize that the pandemic may still be impacting organizations’ operations for some time to come. In our efforts to understand and serve these challenges better, we are undertaking a two-step discovery process that will inform our work toward achieving
greater programmatic and funding equity.

First, grantees and applicants will complete a survey giving feedback about the USRARF grant process. Secondly, we are hosting more in-depth discussions in October 2021. M-AAA needs to hear directly from our constituents about priority areas that will help
advance their organizations’ stability and growth.

Margie J. Reese, longtime colleague and arts leader in our region, will facilitate these discovery conversations, in addition to helping us consider meaningful ways to respond to these needs and ideas.