What Types of Arts Groups are Catching the Bartol Foundation’s Attention in Philadelphia?

Grantmaking at some foundations can be a little tricky to wrap your head around, while other foundations are as clear and targeted as you could ever hope for. In the latter category, we'd include the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation, a private funder in Philadelphia that’s solely committed to local arts. In fact, this is the only foundation based in Philly that exclusively funds local arts groups.

Related: IP’s Profile of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation

Bartol celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, and committed $160,000 to 28 Philadelphia arts and cultural organizations earlier this summer. As is typical, arts education and community-based art programs fared well with Bartol this year through a wide range of disciplines, reaching children, teens and adults.

Although most Bartol grants top out at $5,000, a couple of $10,000 awards were granted this year, too. To get a better sense of Bartol grantmaking, let's take a look at the Philadelphia organizations that received the top awards this year.

Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble

This group received $10,000 for general operating support to produce performances, provide affordable workshops for the community, and conduct youth outreach. With a broad reach, it serves over 25,000 people each year, and has been a driving force behind the African cultural renaissance since 1969.

Philadelphia Young Playwrights

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Young Playwrights also received $10,000 from Bartol in the most recent grant cycle to support in-school playwriting programs. This nonprofit incorporates multi-generational settings, digital media literacy, and progressive social change into its programming. The organization has been around since 1986 and serves up to 1,700 students at approximately 50 program sites each year.

Observations & Conclusions

One commonality between these two organizations was their long-standing track records of success. Although Bartol doesn’t necessarily shy away from start-ups and organizations that it hasn’t previously supported, established entities are worth greater trust. Regardless, this is a funder of small organizations, as almost all grantees have operating budgets under $1 million, and there’s actually an eligibility cap at $2.5 million.

Bartol also likes to see organizations and programs that create art for social purposesnot just for art’s sake. A broad reach in the city is also important to Bartol. As you can see from these examples, Bartol’s highest form of support can come in the form of program funding or general operating grants. However, Bartol doesn’t seem to have overwhelming favorites in terms of the types of art produced. Grantees come from organizations in dance, music, theater, visual arts, literature, ceramics and poetry, as well as forms affiliated with Arab, Latino, Asian, and African cultural groups.

“It is exciting to see the full range of opportunities that are available in the city,” said Beth Feldman Brandt, executive director of the foundation. “From the teen apprentices setting sail in traditional boats they made at Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, to student photographers at Philadelphia Photo Arts Center exhibiting their work on the sidewalks around City Hall, to ArtWell’s ‘We, the Poets,’ connecting students throughout the city through their Slam Team. Each of our grantees makes a unique contribution to a new understanding of the arts.”

A full list of 2015 grantees can be found on the foundation’s website.

When I asked Ms. Brandt about the characteristics that her foundation's grantees tend to share, she said, "All of our grantees have deep, authentic relationships with the communities they serve. While the art forms or program offerings vary, all of our grantees are passionate about the importance of the arts as a tool for arts education, youth development, community development and/or personal expression."

Right now, the foundation is working on a digital strategy to expand the reach of its professional development programs and to raise the profiles of community-based arts organizations and the role of teaching artists. According to Ms. Brandt, "This will include an updated website, engaging with our grantees and the broader community through social media, and providing resources and networks on many bandwidths."

Up next, the Bartol foundation will be announcing the winner of its George Bartol Arts Education Award of $5,000 in September. We’ll also be keeping an eye out for updated guidelines and application information to be released in early 2016 for the next application deadline of May 1, 2016.