Stronger Together –Strategic partnerships create a more equitable cultural sector

A man is sitting at a table reading a document. He is wearing a grey shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. To his left is a large window with many window panes. To his right is a print of a Buffalo Soldier in a landscape. The picture is on a desk leaning against a wall.
Kevin Washington, Board Member at Buffalo Soldiers Museum, using office space at Historic Seattle's Dearborn House ©2023, photo courtesy of Buffalo Soldiers Museum.

In 2019, the King County Council approved Building for Equity, an initiative to support cultural building projects and create a pathway for us to evolve our funding practices toward more equitable outcomes. This gave us the unique opportunity to re-envision a facilities grant that increases the economic viability of BIPOC-led arts and cultural organizations.

In celebration of Building for Equity’s 4th anniversary, we’re thrilled to highlight partnerships developed through the program’s Cultural Space Contribution requirement. Even though this is a small component of a larger program, the requirement has generated big results.

Organizations that receive grants of $100,000 or more must provide free space and technical resources to smaller organizations that are BIPOC-led or serve BIPOC communities. They work collaboratively with their partner to set a new racial equity goal, commit to attending anti-racist training, and identifying an anti-racist practice to implement. When we set up this grant requirement, we did not anticipate the creative and meaningful ways organizations would partner!

Historic Seattle partnered with Buffalo Soldiers Museum, offering office space and supporting the Museum’s campaign to preserve the historic Fort Lawton 25th Infantry Band Building located in Discovery Park.

A woman stands between two rows of shelving. She is wearing a black shirt, black pants and beige boots. she is wearing a black mask covering the lower part of her face. The shelves are filled with archival boxes from floor to ceiling.
KAHS Volunteer in Wing Luke Museum’s storage area for KAHS collection (c) 2023, photo courtesy of the Korean American Historical Society (KAHS)

The Wing Luke Museum strengthened an existing partnership with the Korean American Historical Society, providing collection storage and dedicated office space for volunteers. This increased the Wing’s ties to the local Korean community.

The Sound of the Northwest gained access to classrooms for choir rehearsals, board meetings, and retreats through a partnership with Seattle JazzED. Technical support helped them launch online registration and develop fundraising and marketing strategies. The partners worked collaboratively on two racial equity goals: to invite BIPOC members to join the Seattle JazzED board and to hire BIPOC vendors for both organizations.

The Sound of the Northwest utilizing performance and rehearsal space at Seattle JazzED (c) 2023, photo courtesy of Seattle JazzED

The Seattle Opera’s partnership with Tasveer gave the social justice South Asian film and arts organization access to workspace, event space, storage, and theatre-based technical support. Both organizations are currently creating a shared racial equity goal to work on for the duration of their engagement.

Tasveer and Seattle Opera staff pose for selfie photo during a welcome tour of the Opera’s office space. ©2023 Maya Santos

To meet the Cultural Space requirement, Town Hall Seattle launched the Venue Access program, inviting BIPOC-led organizations to apply to use their stages and utilize marketing and production support throughout the 2023-24 season.  After conducting a review process, Orquesta Northwest was just selected as their partner!

“We feel privileged for this partnership with 4Culture and Seattle Opera Center. Besides the office and the storage spaces, this partnership also grants us exclusive access to some of Seattle Opera Center’s most beautiful venues,” said Khenrab Palden, Tasveer’s Operations Manager. “The dedicated staff here consistently goes above and beyond to support our small organization. We are proud to say that we will be hosting our inaugural Tasveer Film Summit right here at the Tagney Jones Hall in October.”

Building for Equity is a new model for 4Culture’s long-running Cultural Facilities grant program, which provides 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.