Frontline Arts Buffalo (F.A.B.) seeks to support frontline arts and cultural organizations of color in Buffalo in their transition from conditions of precarity to viability, as they lay the foundation for building the movement to a regenerative economy in which the arts are central. We know that a regenerative economy requires shifts in consciousness and we know frontline arts are essential in enabling such transformation. We are a collective of artists, arts administrators, engaged citizens, justice advocates, policy researchers, as well as many others who urge the greater community of Buffalo elected officials to support the following positions:
Artists and arts organizations are a vital part of New York State's culture and economy. As such, New York State should commit to increased funding for NYSCA, which has historically been a national leader in public funding for the arts.
Erie County's vibrant arts and cultural community is an important contributor to the local tourism industry. The County should commit a share of tourism tax revenue, such as from the Hotel Occupancy Tax, to local arts organizations through EACAB.
The arts and cultural institutions of Buffalo have been an active player and contributor in the “renaissance” the city is experiencing, thus leading to increased revenue for the city. The City of Buffalo should in turn invest in these institutions as assets by committing to consistent annual funding for the arts.
The distribution of public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Erie County Arts and Cultural Advisory Board, and the City of Buffalo, should adopt the following criteria in their determination of funding:
Demographics of population served - The distribution of public funding to arts and cultural organizations should be based, at least in part, on the demographics of the population served. Some communities have limited access to arts and cultural programming and therefore are in greater need of such services. Some also have less disposable income available for tickets, classes, etc. Nonprofits are mission driven organizations and should be judged and funded based on the benefit of their service to society. The scarcity and precarity of Frontline Arts organizations, coupled with the mission and purpose they serve, should make them a priority of public funding.
Private & national vs. public funding - Funding entities and grant makers should consider the availability of private and national funding to arts and cultural organizations when assessing the needs of small to midsize organizations serving Frontline communities. Such organizations should not be penalized for being less able to attract substantial private donations or earned income.
Organizational history and practice - Consideration of an organization’s longevity, accountability, and significance of programming to the community(s) being served should be considered when determining the distribution of general operating funds. Succession planning is very difficult, if not impossible, without the ability to fund positions at each level of authority and thereby train and prepare new leaders. Frontline arts and cultural organizations typically depend on these public funds in order to simply survive, not thrive. These are also the most difficult funds to get.
Experience - Funders should give greater credence to what Frontline Arts present as their experience in the field. What are the needs, concerns, difficulties expressed by the organizations requesting funding? Is there a common thread?
Engagement - Those responsible for funding decisions should be required to engage with funded organizations, such as by performing site visits, meeting with organizational staff, and attending public events.
We ask that funders join with Frontline arts and cultural organizations to continue to work towards a system of equitable funding.