Funding Black arts, one donation at a time

Faith McKinnie began the Black Artist's Fund as a way to support BIPOC artists through micro grants.

A local grassroots organization provides micro grants to Black artists

The Black Artist’s Fund began in Faith McKinnie’s mind when she was seven years old.

Now a community engagement coordinator at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, McKinnie grew up seeing inequities in the way that Black, indigenous and people of color were treated by the arts community in Sacramento.

McKinnie formed the Black Artist’s Fund as a grassroots organization to give local artists of color small grants to “begin and sustain their careers.”

“I grew up understanding that there needs to be an equal system that supports Black artists,” McKinnie said. “It just kind of dawned on me like, ‘Man, we need a fund that can help artists explore and evolve their creative practice.’”

The Black Artist’s Fund is run by McKinnie and an advisory board that includes arts advocate Maya Wallace, visual artist Jessa Ciel, 17-year-old Sacramento Youth Poet Laureate Cloudy and Niva Flor, chief impact and strategy officer at Sacramento Region Community Foundation.

They found the support of local artists including Brandon Gastinell, who wrote on Black Artist’s Fund’s Instagram page: “I feel we are not represented by many galleries, we do not have many Black artists putting on shows in the city and I want to help change that.”

Within three days, the organization met its initial goal of $10,000 on its GoFundMe page (more than $12,000 as of Wednesday) and received about 25 grant applications by artists across the city.

“I really wanted it to be a grassroots funding effort. People can donate, and then those funds, every single dollar, gets distributed to Black artists,” McKinnie said.

The deadline for the first round of applications is Friday, June 19; the recipients will be announced on June 30. Then, the group plans to prepare for the next round of applicants.

“It’s not a one-off for us. We want to see this grow,” McKinnie said.

An important part of the fund was making the application process simple. The one-page document emphasizes a single question, “How will these funds specifically help support your creative practice?”

“We didn’t ask them to give an amount ’cause we wanted to really keep it open and fund anything from buying someone some paint, to helping secure materials for public art,” McKinnie said. “We just wanted to be able to help artists with some funding opportunities.”

With support from the community, the Black Artist’s Fund continues to grow, but McKinnie says that the fund is only one of the necessary steps.

The larger issue, she says, is providing space in Sacramento where artists can take risks, experiment and find support without having to worry about selling their work.

“How can someone stay if there’s nothing here for them?” McKinnie said. “It’s not just with funding, but just more places to experiment…We don’t have space for artists to explore themselves here. It’s just work and sell.”

Still, the outpouring of support so far has given McKinnie hope that the arts community will continue to support BIPOC artists.

“I’m just really happy,” she said. “And sometimes, especially working in the arts in Sacramento, I find myself more frustrated than I am happy.”

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