SMU DataArts recently released a new survey of financial data from arts organizations across the U.S. from 2016 through 2020 titled Buffering Against Uncertainty: Working Capital and the Resiliency of BIPOC-serving Organizations. You can read the full report for free here.
The bottom line: BIPOC-serving and led organizations have more financial liquidity than their counterparts. In part because they’ve historically had to be tightly managed in order to survive and thrive – and in part because they’ve been denied access to larger capital that led others to invest in large facilities and other capital investments that drain cash. One sobering fact according to the report – the largest BIPOC theater in the U.S. has a budget of just $3M, compared to the much larger budgets of historically white theaters. In many ways BIPOC-led organizations are better suited to the pandemic moment – more flexible, better tied to their communities, and focused on mission delivery and not continually expansive growth. Which is why changes in how funding flows to these organizations is so important, like the change in model implemented by the DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities this year.
Hopefully more funders and funding agencies will catch up with the fact that, until they create more equity in how they fund the arts, the arts will be unable to become more equitable. Having more cash on hand is great, but until they can access greater equity, BIPOC-led organizations will continue to be left behind.