We’re doubling down on arts networks, the key to the arts and culture ecosystem, with a new round of funding.
This week we’ve announced a new round of Jewish arts & culture grantmaking: $195,000 to nine emerging arts networks in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $25,000. This latest grant cycle brings our total commitments to the sector to over $1.6 million over the past 18 months.
I want to briefly explain our philanthropic approach here and address the question: why are networks key to elevating Jewish creativity? But it is the actual work of these intrepid, scrappy, committed creative communities that is most important. So please read on to learn more about them.
Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day; teach someone to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.
The proverb applies to our approach. If you’re an artist in need of brushes and paint or cymbals and sticks, those things will help you complete a project or play concerts for a while. But if you can find a network that strengthens your connection to the field, introduces you to new opportunities, promotes your work, introduces you to primary source materials and engaging faculty, and gives you a community that is connected through creativity and shared identity—then you have a strong platform upon which to build a career, and a lasting Jewish kinship.
To that end, we stipulated that the work of such networks must focus on:
Ideas or themes inspired by Jewish religion, history, tradition, ritual, or culture
Prioritizing artistic excellence worthy of (inter)national recognition
Meaningful engagement with the Jewish community
Meaningful engagement with the secular community
To qualify, we look for organizations that:
Act as a hub of activity for creatives
Provide education/funding/other connections for those creatives
Connect those creatives to one another
Connect those creatives to distribution channels, sources of revenue, continued education, etc.
Collectively, CANVAS’s 14 network grantees represent more than 3,000 Jewish creative leaders and practitioners whose work is inspired by or explores Jewish religion, history, tradition, ritual, or culture.
We see this growing “network of networks” as the foundation of a healthy Jewish arts ecosystem. It is a woefully underserved community that is, nonetheless, driving the 21st-century Jewish cultural renaissance.
In recent weeks, we’ve looked back at just one year of Jewish artistry and achievement. And now, thanks to our investments in media coverage of the field, Jewish creativity is being seen by an increasingly broad and diverse audience.
Perhaps most exciting for us is how the CANVAS footprint expands with these grants. We’re funding new disciplines (theater, music, Jewish arts education) and new regions (including a first foray into Canada). This also marks our first investment in a program (The Workshop) dedicated to Jewish artists of color, indigenous Jews, Sephardi and Mizrahim (JOCISM).
Taken together, these investments don’t just increase the number of organizations and artists served, they illustrate the vibrant diversity of the 21st century’s Jewish creative renaissance. We hope other funders take note, and lovers of the arts take heart.
As the ecosystem comes together and these connections are drawn more tightly, we anticipate a more consistent and more compelling outpouring of Jewish creativity.
We invite you to meet our new grantees, follow their work, and support them if you can.
Alliance for Jewish Theatre
The AJT develops, promotes, and preserves theatre with a Jewish sensibility, as well as developing theatre productions that serve diverse communities. In addition, the AJT strengthens the connections between its 300+ members—institutions and individuals—with its annual conference.
Institute for Jewish Creativity of AJU
The Institute for Jewish Creativity is based out of American Jewish University in Los Angeles. Its mission is to provide cultural programming of Jewish interest and encourage artistic contributions that help create an authentic, thriving, American Jewish culture. Since 2015, more than 100 artists in Los Angeles have affiliated with its programs or received its support.
Jewish Art Salon
The Jewish Art Salon supports visual artists who work with Jewish themes and is the largest international artists’ and scholars’ network for contemporary Jewish visual art. The JAS provides exhibitions, resources, and programs, developing partnerships with artists, institutions, and the general public. JAS currently has 450 active members around the United States and the world.
Jewish Plays Project
The mission of The Jewish Plays Project is “to put bold, progressive conversation on world stages.” The JPP champions new voices and works toward production opportunities for new plays. Each year, the JPP selects seven to 10 playwrights for development. As a network, JPP connects with over 60 writers.
Jewish Studio Project
This organization uses creativity to facilitate personal transformation and social change. The “Jewish Studio Process” helps participants access their creative power for self-discovery and collective liberation. Jewish Studio Project also offers professional development and a range of specific programs, such as studio immersives and creative facilitator trainings. JSP has brought its work to nearly ten thousand participants and collaborated with over 100 organizations seeking creative approaches to Jewish engagement.
A network of 14 Toronto-based Jewish arts, culture, and heritage organizations, Kultura operates in collaboration with the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. It supports visual arts, photography, Yiddish, and Holocaust education, providing opportunities for cultural enrichment, intellectual growth, and spiritual fulfillment.
New Jewish Culture Fellowship
NJCF is a network of Jewish artists, writers, and performers who investigate the elusive “cultural Judaism,” which marks the identity of so many Jewish people today. It brings together a yearly cohort of Brooklyn-based Jewish artists for learning and creative feedback. Cohort members then produce new work for the public—concerts, workshops, readings, screenings, talks, and more. The NJCF is looking to expand its model to a national level.
Rising Song Institute at Hadar
Based in Philadelphia, Rising Song Institute “sparks the musical soul of the Jewish people.” It nurtures high-caliber, professional artists who seek to bring Judaism into their music; provides participatory concerts and musical gatherings; and offers a leadership training program.
The Workshop at the Hendel Center at JTS
The Workshop is a new 10-month, New York-based arts fellowship that supports the work of artists from the JOCISM community (Jews of Color, Indigenous Jews, Sephardim, and Mizrahim). It is housed in the JTS Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice. The fellowship provides contemporary Jewish artists the opportunity to explore how Jews understand themselves and how to contribute new answers to the quest for Jewish meaning.