Macy's Inc.: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: Philanthropy at Macy’s Inc. is directed toward arts and culture, education, the environment, HIV/AIDS, women’s health, and domestic violence. Grantmaking flows through the Macy’s Foundation for programs operating on a national scale, and through the corporation for local-level programming.

IP TAKE: Macy’s makes substantial and widespread contributions in the area of arts and culture; visual arts is a substantial part of this grantmaking (especially museums). Some of this happens through the foundation, but much more of it occurs through the corporation for local visual arts organizations—and this is a very good thing, because only the latter has an open application process.

PROFILE: Macy’s Inc., including Bloomingdales department stores, is a significant funder in the world of corporate philanthropy, both through a formal foundation (the Macy’s Foundation) and through the company itself (a program called My Macy's District Grants). Macy’s seeks to “help create stronger, healthier places for [their] customers and associates to work and live.” Both the foundation and the corporation have the same five areas of philanthropic focus: Arts and culture, education, the environment, HIV/AIDS and “women’s issues,” which funds work related to women’s health and domestic violence.

Visual arts grant seekers should not ignore Macy’s other funding priorities as arts initiatives that intersect with additional funding areas can only be value-added.

The My Macy’s District Grants program was established in 2010. It funded $3.5 million in grants in 2015 and $1.5 million in 2016 to organizations across its five areas of focus. The My Macy’s District Grants not only give a lot, they give flexibly. Organizations can apply via either an “Event” application or a “Program” application. Both are useful for visual arts organizations. Macy’s defines the Event category to include showings and performances; the Program category is for “ongoing program or general operations support.”

Other corporate grantors often speak about their support of arts and culture in terms of audience outreach, diversity of storytelling and performers, and commitment to community; Macy’s, by contrast, does not address any social contract at all, nor does it delve into what it looks for aesthetically from its arts and culture grantees. Visual arts projects that promote audience development and community engagement have an advantage. Macy’s seeks to support arts organizations with a track record of success. Macy’s also only funds 501(c)(3) arts programs that operate in or are engaged with a community in which Macy’s and/or Bloomingdales has a presence.

Visual arts grants range widely from a few hundred dollars to $290,000. Past grantees of both My Macy’s District Grants and the Macy’s Foundation include Artswave (Cincinnati, OH); the Dallas Art Museum (TX); and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), among many others.

Grant applications for My Macy’s District Grants are accepted year-round and are reviewed on a rolling basis; granting made by the Macy’s Foundation is by invitation only.


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