Racial Equity at 4Culture

Guided by a vision of a King County in which every person has what they need to explore and create culture, we’re working to become an actively anti-racist organization.

We know that this work is urgent and ongoing; as a public agency, we’re committed to being transparent about our successes and failures. Here, we’ll continue to provide updated information about our efforts to bring about racial equity in all of our funding, commissioning, and other work. Your feedback and questions are welcome at any time! Please contact us at hello@4culture.org or 206-296-7580.

What we’re doing

Hiring and Recruitment

Hiring and Recruitment


4Culture advertises positions through open calls with BIPOC-focused outreach strategies. We list salary ranges in all job postings and give a minimum of three weeks to apply. Cross-departmental hiring committees that include Advisory Committee and Board representation evaluate applicants using a scoring rubric that reflects the posted job description. We also consider a mix of education and experience and do not require advanced degrees unless they are necessary for the position. All our job descriptions list a demonstrated commitment to racial equity and social justice as a qualification.

Board and Advisory Committees

We’re working to ensure that our 15-member Board of Directors always reflects the cultural, geographic, and ethnic diversity of King County.

Nine Board members are appointed by King County Council to represent each King County district and six are appointed by the King County Executive. 4Culture coordinates with the Executive and Councilmembers in the nomination process to ensure that the nominees have the experience and qualifications most needed and that the communities and demographics of King County are represented in the makeup of the Board.

Racial Equity Team

Racial Equity Team

Our Racial Equity Team is a cross-departmental working committee that provides leadership and sustains momentum around all of our racial equity work. We formed this standing team in 2016; since then, it has developed racial equity-focused education opportunities, policies, and programs. Long-term, RET is responsible for setting goals and strategies that will bring us closer to integrating a racial equity focus into all 4Culture programs and processes.

RET meets twice per month. Its members are passionate about using their skills to make positive change happen at 4Culture.



We know that racial equity requires continuous work and lifelong learning. While not the answer to inequity, training is one strategy among many; we value coming together as staff to learn and build.

2022: “Movement Capture” with Professor Megan Ming Francis

Through a historical lens, Francis explained how funders shaped the Black Freedom Struggle from the early 20th century to the present. It uncovers the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s forgotten history against lynching and mob violence. Highlighting how funders can influence and redirect Black-led movements through financial leverage.

Presenter Bio: Megan Ming Francis, University of Washington Associate Professor, researcher of American politics, including criminal punishment, Black activism, philanthropy, and the post-Civil War South. She’s an award-winning author and TED speaker working on books about capitalism and philanthropy’s role in social movements.

2021: Red Lining and Ethnic Enclaves in Seattle with Professor Connie So

Professor Connie So explored Seattle’s redlining, Central and Chinatown/International Districts, and the challenges faced by refugees from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries due to colonialism and government obstructions.

Presenter Bio: Dr. Connie So, an immigrant from Hong Kong, is a Professor of Teaching in UW’s American Ethnic Studies department. She holds BAs in English and Communications from the University of Washington, an MPA from Princeton University, and a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from U.C. Berkeley. Currently serving as the President of OCA Asian Pacific Advocates of Greater Seattle, she actively engages with local Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander American organizations.

In 2018, we formed a year-long partnership with consultants Norma Timbang and Scott Winn, who guided 4Culture staff, Board, and Advisory Committee members through a series of day-long racial equity training sessions. The Racial Equity Team is currently working to develop basic racial equity training as part of our onboarding process for new staff, Board, or Advisory Committee members.

Building on that year of foundational training, our Racial Equity Team plans and implements more intensive trainings related to specific topics and issues. This has included Mam’ook Sikhs: To Make Good Friends Native allyship training and a transgender community competency workshop. Along the way, we have been introduced to incredible trainers, educators, and activists. Please feel free to contact us if you have training needs and would like a recommendation.



Building for Equity

Formed in 2019, this $20 million joint initiative between 4Culture, Executive Dow Constantine, and the King County Council supports cultural building projects and creates a pathway to racial equity in our facilities funding. Building for Equity creates a new model for our long-running Cultural Facilities grant through a unique combination of funding, technical support, and strategic partnerships. Communities that have historically faced barriers to purchasing and stewarding cultural space are at the center of the program.

Beyond Integrity

This diverse working group of advocates, organizers, and preservation professionals from across King County is elevating equity in historic preservation standards and practices. Landmarking processes that prioritize architectural integrity and longevity often ignore cultural significance—particularly to communities of color. Knowing that there are many buildings and locations that are too culturally important to lose, Beyond Integrity is working towards systemic change by identifying inequity in current preservation processes, engaging local decision-makers in embracing new standards, and fostering stronger voices for advocates throughout the region.

Artists Up

Founded in 2012 to address the low numbers of artists from communities of color applying for funding, Artists Up is a collaboration between 4Culture, the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, and the Washington State Arts Commission. Artists Up is dedicated to improving and expanding capacity, networks, and opportunities for artists of color, artists with disabilities, and artists who are new to Washington State, including immigrant artists. It also raises awareness about artists’ needs, while developing and delivering programs investigate best practices to help meet those needs.



Equity Investments

Systemic inequity takes many, interconnected forms—racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, heterosexism, and more. Focusing on racial equity provides us with tools we can use to help dismantle all of these oppressions. The goal of our Equity Investments practice is to help build a cultural sector in King County that better reflects the communities it serves.

National reports indicate that cultural grantmaking struggles to reach underserved populations, and is even becoming less equitable. Here is some of the research that is guiding our decision-making for this practice:

  • According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, in 2016 just 2% of all cultural institutions receive nearly 60% of all contributed revenue. The 2% consists of 925 cultural groups that have annual budgets of more than $5 million—large institutions that focus primarily on Western European fine arts traditions.
  • People of color represent 37% of the American population, but just 4% of all foundation arts funding is allocated to groups whose primary mission is to serve communities of color, per the U.S. Census and the Helicon Collaborative.
  • A 2011 study in Science found that white researchers receive NIH grants at nearly twice the rate that African American researchers do. Even when factors such as publication record and training are considered, an African American scientist is still only two-thirds as likely as a white scientist to be funded.

Equity Investments put indicators of racial inequity at the center of our grant selection process. This includes geographic location, income, operating budget, audiences served, and project focus. While state law prevents us from using race as a determining factor in public contracting, by prioritizing these factors in our grantmaking we can direct funds to where they have historically and repeatedly been denied.

A key tool in helping us assess these factors are Communities of Opportunity census tracts. Equity Investments will be largely focused on projects and organizations outside of the City of Seattle, OR located in Seattle but also within an area with a Communities of Opportunity index percentile of 60% or greater. These locations are shown in purple on this map:


For Firefox users, you may find it easier to view the map using this link.

Each of our grant programs will implement an Equity Investment system tailored to the specific needs of its applicants; please read the Panel Process section of each guideline page for details on how Equity Investments will function within that specific grant.

Panel Process

Every grant application we receive is evaluated through a peer-panel review process. Artists and cultural workers of all disciplines review applications against grant or artist call criteria and make decisions about funding allocation; 4Culture staff do not influence the outcome of the panel process.

In order for 4Culture staff to assemble panels that reflect the tremendous artistic, racial, geographic, and cultural diversity of King County, we maintain a roster of individuals with interest in serving on a panel. Our Volunteer Inquiry Form helps 4Culture to connect with community members who are interested in serving on a panel. 4Culture asks all interested volunteers about the communities they belong to, work with, or represent personally or professionally.

In addition, equity-based criterion has been built into the core criteria of some of our programming, specifically, If the project and/or public event is intended to support people or communities historically marginalized in King County, and if the applicant has outlined why and how this will take place, is a part of what our panelists engage with and review.

Racial Equity Toolkit

In late 2021, 4Culture began implementing use of a Racial Equity Toolkit within work planning processes.

The toolkit is designed to help staff:

  • Intentionally dedicate time to discussing and understanding racial equity and potential racial inequities of program decisions in a planning period.
  • Document learnings and define actions taken to advance racial equity in workplans.
  • Document changes and results that might assist other staff with advancing racial equity in their work.

The toolkit is a working document, developed and piloted over two years by members of 4Culture’s Racial Equity Team.

Land Acknowledgement

Land Acknowledgement

Our land acknowledgement, new as of 2021, is a verbal statement given at the opening of a gathering that seeks to bring awareness to the land where we live and work and our responsibilities in being here:

With gratitude, 4Culture works on the ancestral and unceded lands and waters of Lushootseed-speaking peoples, especially of the Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, Snoqualmie, Suquamish, and Tulalip tribes, as well as those whose names we do not know. Today many Indigenous peoples live and thrive here. We commit to repairing the harmful historic relationship between 4Culture and Native peoples in King County through cultural funding and commissioning opportunities that prioritize Indigenous communities.

Why did 4Culture develop a statement?

Staff brought the request for an organizational land acknowledgement statement to 4Culture’s Racial Equity Team (RET), a standing, cross-departmental working group that provides leadership on internal racial equity efforts. A working team of RET was tasked with developing the statement and began looking for resources and experts to guide the process. The statement reflects several months of research and writing, as well as input from Indigenous people and the support of 4Culture’s staff, Board, and Advisory Committees.

What are 4Culture’s resource commitments to Indigenous communities?

Building on the our land acknowledgement development process, we plan to:

  • Establish a portion of our racial equity budget toward Indigenous women-led cultural grantmaking groups.
  • Establish an Indigenous-led and administered capital grant program as part of our Building for Equity Initiative.
  • Continue to prioritize creating opportunities for Indigenous artists and communities with our public art commissions.

How We are Complicit in Racist Systems

How We are Complicit in Racist Systems

Cultural philanthropy builds and strengthens norms about what is and isn’t “culture”—the historical outcome of this is racialized. 4Culture is a public organization—not a philanthropy—that operates on public revenue which requires us to run competitive cultural programs that do not use race as a deciding factor. However, much like a philanthropy, we grant to people and organizations that provide cultural experiences to and preserve historical places for King County residents. These systems are intertwined. Offering resources to individuals and groups who have the time, resources, and confidence to compete are also seen as “cultural” or “historic” privileges, which have racist outcomes.

4Culture is part of this system. We are working to understand it, dismantle it with the tools available to us, and build up something equitable that supports and recognizes the value in cultural expression of all of people, especially those in King County.

We know that both competitive and invitational grant programs pose barriers to marginalized communities. We are thinking deeply and re-thinking about the criteria, eligibility requirements, panel makeup and training. We also know that the way historical narratives are told over time impacts what is elevated—what is documented and remembered, told or untold or erased—and that this all affects opportunities to share history and protect places that are important to cultural expression and memory.