Arts’ Watch: Kentucky Arts Council: DEI

Published 11:13 am Thursday, January 20, 2022

Last year, Arts Watch summarized and commented on then just-released Actors Equity report on how local arts funding agencies can use best practices in the areas of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to better assure that arts funding organizations are inclusive in their outreach. The idea behind the Actors Equity report is that funding should go not only to white and male artists or groups but also those in low socioeconomic areas and those that serve people of color and other marginalized persons.

The Actors Equity report is available in full at
The December Arts Watch column is on our website.

After the Arts Watch column ran in mid-December, I sent an email to Tom Musgrave at the Kentucky Arts Council to find out whether and how KAC encouraged DEI in its policies and procedures and what its expectations were for the arts groups—particularly those that receive operating support grants—which it funds.

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My questions are designated as SUN, his answers as KAC. Responses from KAC were not edited for space, concision, or any other reason, but included as submitted.

SUN: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)– is included in the KAC’s “Values” statement
portion of its current “Strategic Plan: 2015-2021.” “Additionally,” that statement says, “we ask
that applicants and partners keep [these] values in mind when working with the Kentucky Arts
Council.” How does KAC “enforce” this provision? Does it, as an example, “ask hard questions and expect substantive answers” in these areas?

KAC: Organizations that apply for operational support from Kentucky Arts Partnership (KAP)
grants enter into a contract with the commonwealth. The KAP application requires the submission of a cultural equity plan that must include measurable goals and outcomes. Funding for the KAP grant program comes from the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts. Grantees are required to submit an interim and final report for funds received.

If a grantee fails to submit the required reports, the arts council will accept no future applications from the grantee organization until an acceptable final report is received. In addition, any grant money payable to the organization will be held until after the required interim/final report is submitted.

The primary purpose of the interim report is to document progress regarding the development or implementation of the organization’s cultural equity plan. All arts council grantees must submit a final report within 30 days of completion of the grant period.

Information from final reports will be used to meet the arts council’s reporting requirements to the National Endowment for the Arts and to create both a state-wide public value report and a public value report specific to each KAP grantee.

SUN: The Actors Equity (AE) report recommends that arts funding agencies use “score cards” when evaluating grant applications. I know that specific criteria are utilized in evaluating grant applications and that such evaluations are done in public. However, are there standard criteria that applicants are aware of in advance to help guide their preparation of their grant applications?

KAC: Applicants are provided scoring criteria or scoring rubrics in our guidelines from which applications are evaluated and scored via a panel process.

SUN: AE recommends that board member support of arts organizations NOT be a requirement for funding of such groups, and that matching fund grant programs and minimum budget requirements be eliminated, as such programs frequently keep groups most in need of funding from being able to apply. What position does KAC take on these proposals?

KAC: The Kentucky Arts Council does not require monetary support from board members of arts organizations for application of our grants. We want to know what role board members serve in the organization and how that affects the implementation of the programming and strategic goals and how the organization responds to the community’s needs. There are no minimum budget requirements for an organization to apply. Any non-profit arts organization that submits an eligible KAP application will receive funding regardless of budget size.

Arts’ Watch contributor Bill McCann wrote this for the Winchester Sun.