CANVAS Year Two: Moving Forward, Looking Back

CANVAS Staff

This is the time of year when we share what we at CANVAS have been up to. It’s our annual peek behind the curtain to help explain our grantmaking and field-building efforts for the Jewish arts and culture world.

It is also a chance to share how we’ve grown. Regular readers of Compendium will recall that we welcomed Sarah Burford, our new COO, in May. Sarah came to us from the National Endowment for the Arts and brings a deep understanding of the way in which the arts sector, and arts funding, work.

So we all thought it would be interesting to invite Sarah to reflect on Year Two of CANVAS’s field-building work from her unique perspective.

I want to thank Sarah for thoughtfully summarizing a lot of data and accomplishments, and I want to thank you for your ongoing interest and support.

If you think we’re on the right track, let us know. Support our grantees, and support Jewish arts and culture — it’s the creative glue that holds us all together, gives us vibrancy, and reflects who we are to the broader world.

Jazz giant Sonny Rollins once said: “In art, we can find a humbling sort of wisdom. We see themes and ideas repeat over many lifetimes. Those ideas don’t belong to any one person, and as they evolve, disappear and reappear, they remind us that regardless of what’s happening now, our lives on this earth will always be part of something bigger.”

Here’s to something bigger.

Lou Cove
Founder


 

With the High Holidays approaching, we here at CANVAS have been taking stock. We’ve been reflecting upon the vitality of the 21st century Jewish cultural renaissance and our role within it—how we’ve worked to strengthen the field and what we still hope to accomplish.

In recent years, the Jewish arts and cultural sector has seen major achievements in terms of its richness, diversity, and ambition. Still, there is a lot more to be done. And while we’re proud of the previous year of CANVAS, we’ve learned that all of us—funders, arts professionals, lay leaders, artists, educators, and creative practitioners of all kinds—have a role in strengthening the field.

So while we’re going to toot our own horn a bit, it’s with the idea of a communal effort in mind. We invite you to join us in looking back at the previous year of CANVAS, as we chart a path forward together.

Grantmaking

Grantmaking is a core component of how CANVAS seeks to strengthen and impact the field. In fact, CANVAS is arguably the single largest dedicated funder of Jewish arts and culture in the United States.

To date, CANVAS has pooled $4.45 million from seven Executive Committee partners and a host of other philanthropists. As of May 31, we’ve invested $2.2 million in direct grantmaking to the field, and currently dedicate about $300,000 annually to field- and capacity-building initiatives.

We concluded our second year of giving with a bang, issuing funding renewals totaling more than $600,000. In just our second year of grantmaking, our funding has already exceeded $1 million annually.

One important focus is on networks, as they support individual artists while strengthening the bonds between them. Thus renewal grants were made to these dynamic Jewish arts and culture organizations:

In addition, we expanded our funding to include eight emerging networks, which, while already having a positive effect, show tremendous potential for the future:

Finally, in Year Two we launched our media grants, investing more than $440,000 to increase the volume, sophistication, and range of coverage dedicated to contemporary Jewish arts and culture. Grants were made to:

This means that CANVAS now supports seventeen diverse, dynamic Jewish arts and culture organizations across North America. And these organizations in turn support more than 3,000 creatives. At the same time, they’re elevating the quality of Jewish arts and culture while presenting countless events that serve communities both Jewish and secular in North America and beyond.

Together, CANVAS grantees generate tremendous momentum in the Jewish creative space—affirming Jewish identities, expanding dialogues between communities, and impacting other fields like education, social justice, community engagement, Jewish heritage, and more.

We’re proud of our achievements coming out of our first two years (read about our first year impressions here.) But we feel it’s just the beginning of what’s needed to achieve a robustly funded, coordinated, engaged, and thriving Jewish arts and cultural field.

Field-Building

CANVAS was founded with an intrinsic belief in the power of Jewish arts and culture and the strong desire to elevate and strengthen the field. When artists find new ways to explore Judaism in all its forms, it affirms Jewish identity, both individually and collectively. Audiences get to enjoy the diversity, vitality, and relevance of Jewish creativity. And the arts are a means of connection to other fields central to Jewish values, including social justice, education, spirituality, and Jewish heritage.

We work toward this field-building in a variety of ways. In the past year, we launched this newsletter, the CANVAS Compendium, which is dedicated to highlighting the best work in the field and to inspiring strategic investment. In addition to covering leading Jewish artists and arts and culture networks, the newsletter has sought to communicate the challenges and opportunities facing Jewish creatives to the philanthropic community. Recent topics include:

We’re also field-building by boosting our grantees: we know the demand is there to serve these arts professionals at the highest levels with field-building and capacity-building support. With this in mind, we’ve held regular meetings, training sessions, and one-on-one consultations on topics include fundraising, capacity-building, networking, management, and strategic planning.

Finally, CANVAS’s grantmaking strategy includes an intention to invest in the distribution of Jewish arts and culture—through festivals, exhibitions, journals, performing arts programs, educational initiatives, digital media, and more. This third pillar of investment, which we will be designing in 2023, will ensure that Jewish arts and culture reaches wide-ranging audiences, providing a deeper understanding of, and stronger connections to, Jewish experience.

Collaboration

CANVAS was built with the understanding that the Jewish philanthropic community’s investment in our arts and culture was diffuse and woefully inadequate, and the conviction that this work cannot be achieved without strategic, coordinated partnerships.

CANVAS is a collaborative funding model, which holds that our ability to leverage investments together strengthens our collective impact as it strengthens the field. We are deeply grateful for the support of our funding partners, whose contributions in our second year included increases in multi-year partner commitments totaling more than $4.455 million to date from:

  • The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies
  • The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation
  • The Jim Joseph Foundation
  • The Klarman Family Foundation
  • The Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation
  • The Peleh Fund
  • The Righteous Persons Foundation

You can find a full list of our funding partners, patrons, and curators here.

Another collaborative effort is Matters of the Art, a JFN funder peer network which meets monthly to explore modern Jewish creativity, discuss needs and opportunities in the sector, explore ways to collaborate, and find inspiration that can impact and increase participants’ own funding of the arts. We have no illusions about our abilities here—the field of Jewish arts and culture can only thrive when the whole community recognizes its value and supports it accordingly.

Growth

For CANVAS, the past year has been a time of internal growth. CANVAS is now helmed by a fantastic Board of Directors made up of seasoned professionals in the field: Board Chair Eva Heinstein (Senior Research Fellow at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation), Deena Fuchs (Executive Director of Micah Philanthropies), and Shayna Rose Triebwasser (Executive Director of Righteous Persons Foundation).

CANVAS also sought to build internal capacity by hiring its first Chief Operating Officer. On a personal note, as CANVAS’s inaugural COO, I am full of admiration for the vision and commitment that the CANVAS team, funding partners, grantees, and broader creative community bring to their work.

It’s been so exciting to witness a collaborative, energized Jewish arts and cultural sector continue to strengthen and take shape. In the coming year, I’m aiming to make CANVAS a model of funder transparency; to foster diverse, inclusive, collaborative spaces for the Jewish creative community; and to build bridges between Jewish creative spaces and the broader arts community.

Looking Ahead

One of CANVAS’s greatest attributes is our power as a connector, with the resources and knowhow to bring together diverse parts of the Jewish arts and culture community—artists, non-profit executives, funders, and community leaders. We find it wonderfully rewarding to foster deeper connections, so that we all learn from one another and welcome the complexity, diversity, intersectionality, and richness of our varied identities.

I mentioned earlier that CANVAS is now the single largest dedicated funder of Jewish arts and culture in the U.S. If we are successful, that won’t remain the case for long. As CANVAS looks towards its next year, we hope to encourage a surge of investment in the interconnected networks that foster our creative practitioners and ensure that Jewish life continues to thrive. We are excited for what’s possible for the Jewish arts and cultural field, and grateful to be on this journey together.

Wishing you a lovely end to summer and a sweet New Year. Onward!

Sarah Burford
COO

Subscribe to the CANVAS Compendium

* indicates required