For several years, the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation has been engaged in ongoing efforts to assess and transform our grantmaking to more equitably support the full breadth of cultural activity and cultural participants in our community. As part of this effort the Foundation recently launched its DEI Opportunity Grant Initiative Program, which awarded 19 smaller organizations with funding in the pilot year. Here is how this program came about.

Flamenco Fantasy Theatre performanceIn striving to better serve communities of color and other historically marginalized communities, we identified that while we had significantly increased our support for many of our largest and most important such organizations, we had not funded or developed relationships with the many smaller groups in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), or other historically marginalized populations (LGBTQ, people with disabilities) many of which were quite small, with minimal or no paid staff, but having very active and engaged working boards.

“We felt the first step in better serving these groups was to listen to them,” says Gary Steuer, President and CEO of Bonfils-Stanton Foundation. “We organized a series of informal gatherings over food and refreshments, because all conversations are better while breaking bread together, at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance with representatives from organizations able to attend. The conversations were facilitated by Erin Yoshimura, a 2014 Livingston Fellow, who is a consultant specializing in equity issues. We learned so much from these conversations that has helped shape our thinking about how we can best be of service. They shared the need for affordable performance space, capacity building and technical assistance, facilitated collaboration and partnerships. Ultimately, we felt the work needed to start with developing a mechanism to support some of these groups immediately, even though they fell outside our usual parameters in terms of scale or consistency of programming.”

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation created the pilot program with a simple application process, that was initially designed to provide ten $5,000 general operating support grants. The approximately 30 groups that had been invited to participate in the listening sessions were invited to apply. In the end, 19 organizations applied and the Foundation decided to fund every applicant. The decision to fund all of the applicants was fueled by the COVID-19 crisis and our growing imperative to act on racial justice and equity. While the grant amounts may seem modest by our usually grantmaking standards, for these groups, many of which are all volunteer and operate on extremely small budgets, this support is quite significant.

Harmony: A Colorado Chorale“Of particular note is that this group of grantees includes our first grantees dedicated to serving the Asian-Pacific Islander, Native/Indigenous, and LGBTQ communities,” says Gina Ferrari, Director of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Grant Program. “This was a pilot program, designed to push some critically needed funding to these groups as quickly as possible and as free of red-tape as possible.”

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation looks forward to continuing to find ways to more equitably support the full breadth of our diverse and inspiring community of arts and cultural organizations.

Meet the 19 DEI Opportunity Grant organizations now:

Access Gallery
Founded in 1978, Access Gallery is an inclusive nonprofit organization that engages the community by opening doors to creative, educational and economic opportunities for people with disabilities to experience and benefit from the arts.

Arts Street
Arts Street uses the power of creativity to help youth in breaking the cycle of generational poverty in Denver communities by gaining personal and economic stability through education, arts and technology and employment training.

Bennie L. Williams Spiritual Voices
The Bennie L. Williams Spiritual Voices (Spiritual Voices) is organized for charitable, educational and cultural purposes to preserve and perform primarily African American spiritual and related choral arrangements.

Black American West Museum & Heritage Center
The Black American West Museum & Heritage Center serves to promote an understanding of the role African Americans played in the settlement and development of the western United States through its collections, programs and exhibits.

Chicano Humanities & Arts Council, Inc.
The mission of the Chicano Humanities & Art’s Council, Inc. (CHAC) is to celebrate Chicano/Latinx culture through arts and education. CHAC serves artists who identify as Chicano and/or Latinx and provides space to share their work and gives them a community to support them.

Colorado Black Arts Festival
Colorado Celebration of African American Arts and Culture produces the annual Colorado Black Arts Festival, which strives to develop, promote and celebrate African American arts and culture throughout Colorado.

Colorado Dragon Boat Festival
Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, started in 2001, builds bridges of awareness, knowledge and understanding between the diverse Asian Pacific American communities and the general public through cultural education, leadership development and athletic competition.

Colorado Fine Arts Association
Through dance, music, exhibitions and other art forms, Colorado Fine Arts Association promotes and serves South Asian minorities as well as anyone in the community who is interested in South Asian culture.

Colorado Korean Chorus
Formed in 2005 by a small group of local choral enthusiasts, Colorado Korean Chorus has established itself as one of Colorado’s long-standing Korean community arts organizations.

Denver March Powwow
Denver March Powwow, Inc. is an educational event that provides a glimpse into America’s Indigenous people’s culture, customs and traditions that are alive and thriving in the country today.

Fiesta Colorado Dance Company
Founded in 1971, Fiesta Colorado Dance Company preserves and presents the cultural traditions of Mexican and Spanish dance and music arts.

Filipino-American Community of Colorado
Through a variety of programming at its cultural center, the Filipino-American Community of Colorado provides the opportunity for participants to learn and perform Filipino music and dance through their performance group.

Flamenco Fantasy Theatre
Flamenco Fantasy Theatre shares the art and culture of Spain by bringing the beauty of Gypsy Flamenco dance and guitar to people of all ages and backgrounds.

Harmony – A Colorado Chorale
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Straight Ally (LGBTQA) voices of Harmony: A Colorado Chorale embrace and inspire an inclusive community through song and performances.

Latino Cultural Arts Center
Latino Cultural Arts Center’s mission is to strengthen the knowledge of the extensive artistic expressions of Latinos living in the United States and globally through education, discussion, exhibition, and preservation of their historical and ongoing contributions.

Mile High Freedom Bands
Committed to making positive contributions to the LGBTQ+ community, Mile High Freedom Bands engages, excites, educates and entertains audiences through musical events and activities while supporting performers of all abilities.

Rocky Mountain Arts Association
Rocky Mountain Arts Association has two member choruses: The Denver Gay Men’s Chorus (DGMC) and The Denver Women’s Chorus (DWC) who are committed to building community through music.

Tesoro Cultural Center
The Tesoro Cultural Center (Tesoro means “treasure” in Spanish) is committed to protecting and making available to the community the artistic treasures of our American past.

Tunas Mekar, Inc.
The mission of Tunas Mekar is to learn and perform the traditional and new gamelan music of Bali, Indonesia. The ensemble offers a cultural exchange about the unique island of Bali with school performances, arts institutions and the general public.