Can Arts Organizations Create a Better Understanding of Muslim Societies? This Funder Thinks So

The Doris Duke Foundation's Building Bridges program, which uses the arts to build greater understanding of modern Muslim societies, recently announced $1.6 million in grants to eight nonprofit arts organizations across the U.S.

This announcement is newsworthy for two reasons. First, the funding is going directly to nonprofit arts organizations and it's the first time the program has awarded funding in this fashion. (Previously, the foundation awarded grants through a curatorial approach or via a third party.)

Second, the funding underscores the critical role that arts organizations continue to play in connecting the American public with Muslim society and artists. To look at it another way, if arts organizations can't help build bridges to these societies, who can? Hollywood? Politicians?

A cursory glance at the winning nonprofits suggest that the Building Bridges was most interested in programming diversity and in projects that speak to universal concerns and interests. Winners include:

  • Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture in Philadelphia, which will receive $120,000 to further develop its Arab Music Concert Series.
  • America Abroad Media in Washington, D.C., awarded $276,997 to launch "Reflections on Muslim Culture in a Changing World," a two-year public media series.
  • The Center for Asian American Media in San Francisco, which will receive $207,533 to implement a series of filmmaking workshops for Muslim youth.
  • The Children's Museum of Manhattan, awarded $250,000 over two years to develop a multidisciplinary initiative featuring interactive educational programs.
  • La Mama Experimental Theatre Club in New York City, awarded $50,000 for "The Back Room @CultureHub," a project designed to "spark a dialogue between the public and emerging visual, new media, and performance artists from Iran."
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which will receive $300,000 over three years to develop educational programs in connection with exhibitions involving Muslim cultures.  
  • The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, awarded $275,000 over three years to develop a project in partnership with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network that brings Muslim artists into local neighborhoods and communities.
  • Poets House in New York City will receive $125,000 for a two-year initiative focused on Muslim poets.

For more information and analysis on the Doris Duke Foundation's work in the arts, visit IP's Grant Finder page here.