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Local arts organizations: 'We are a worthy community investment'

Ten Twin Cities arts organizations serving BIPOC communities have been given grants to further their missions.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Even throughout the pandemic, the work of music instructors at Walker West Music Academy has not gone unrewarded.

"The pandemic really showed the courage and the greatness of our instructors," Executive Director Braxton Haulcy said. "I think I told you earlier, when the state shut down, we brought people in over the weekend, we trained them how to do remote online lessons, and we didn't miss a beat."

Haulcy said he's been proud to have continued serving the Twin Cities during a time when people needed healing most.

But that's not to say things were as smooth as the jazz they teach.

So when he heard the McKnight Foundation is partnering with the Ford Foundation to provide $7 million in funding for BIPOC led organizations working in the arts, it was music to his ears.

"It comes at a wonderful time," Haulcy said. "It allows us to not only find a building, because a lot of times you think capital campaign is about building and infrastructure but it allows us to really expand our programming to serve the community. Really one of the things that has a high focus is that we want to get more African American students, and more lower income students. And the African American component is about closing that opportunity gap that exists in the state of Minnesota."

With about $625,00 headed their way, Haulcy said it's the biggest lump sum Walker West has ever received.

That's the same case with Theater Mu, the second largest Asian American theater organization in the nation.

"Theater in itself is a live construct it's something you want to feel the collective breath together," Development Director Wesley Mouri said. "They say your heart beats match when you're in a theater together. Doing that virtually has been hard but our number one priority since the beginning of the pandemic is employing Asian artists who have been impacted so severely by the pandemic shut down."

Mouri said with this grant, they will continue with that effort, with the broader mission of promoting diverse visibility in the arts.

"Funding like this, this is a bold step in fixing the disparity that happens often in funding organizations of color," Mouri said. "There is a history of not being able to find the support and find the money honestly, to do the work we want to do and celebrate the stories we want to celebrate. So we're really thankful to be a part of this."

So why invest in the arts during this time?

"In this present moment, between George Floyd and the racial tensions in the state of Minnesota, we are in need of healing, and music provides healing," Haulcy said.

"The arts are really important now as we are moving forward and hopefully being able to gather in space together," Mouri added. "We want to look back and reflect on what we've gone through but we also want to look to the future and continue in a more equitable and just world I think the arts is a really important factor in that."

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