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February 19, 2014 / Rebekah Seder, Editor

A renewed focus on the arts and humanities

By Rebekah Seder, Program Manager

At WRAG, we keep finding ourselves discussing how the problems and the assets of the Greater Washington region are often overshadowed by the fact that we’re the home of the federal government.

It’s a blessing and a curse. As the nation’s capital, D.C. and the surrounding area are often seen as synonymous with the Capitol, and our unique character is invisible. When it comes to arts and culture, we are fortunate to be the home of world-class cultural institutions like the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, but smaller arts organizations that do amazing work are often left scrambling for funding. As we wrote in last year’s edition of “Our Region, Our Giving,” our local industry – the federal government – doesn’t generate the kind of major wealth that leads to homegrown philanthropic giants like those in other major cities. And while institutions like the Smithsonian attract (deservedly) massive levels of philanthropic support from both inside and outside our region, there’s considerably less philanthropic investment in locally focused organizations.

Late last month, arts and humanities funders convened to re-launch the Arts & Humanities Working Group (perhaps best remembered to date as the group that initiated the process of bringing the Cultural Data Project to D.C. back in 2011). This group of funders is committed to raising the profile of the arts and humanities in our region and making sure that the broad range of arts nonprofits that serve local audiences aren’t forgotten by other funders.

The working group is diverse, representing private foundations and public arts funding agencies, community, family, and corporate foundations. The group’s express goal is to strengthen the local arts and humanities sector in our region and to increase public and private philanthropic investment in the sector. The Arts & Humanities Working Group aims to help other funders understand that the arts, in addition to their inherent artistic value, are important tools for improving the quality of life in our region by promoting economic growth and community development, and serving as vehicles for education, youth development, and social justice.

The arts are part of what makes the Greater Washington region a great place to live – and, by celebrating, nurturing, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of our creative sector, the region will just keep getting better.


Funders interested in the Arts and Humanities Working Group should contact Rebekah Seder at seder@washingtongrantmakers.org.

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