Breaking Down Structual Racism in Grantmaking

Recorded On: 06/23/2020

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
12:45 p.m. EDT

About this Session

Racism is baked into the structure and model of foundation giving—including that of local, county, and state arts agencies. In moments of crisis, even strong pushes towards equity have the potential to be set aside in favor of moving quickly—and we have to resist the idea that speed and equity are an either/or proposition. In this session, participants will briefly learn the history behind the funding structures we have today, hear about session leaders experiences or aspirations in restructuring their general operating support programs, share their own experiences, and then be led through an exercise to get in the shoes of your community members.

Learning Objectives
  • Learn the history behind the funding structures we have today.
  • Hear from session leaders (and one another) on their experiences or aspirations in restructuring their general operating support programs in their communities. 
  • Learn about the barriers to change and how you might effectively negotiate these barriers with grantees, community members, and others. 

Deidre Thomas, Houston Arts Alliance
Kathy Hsieh, City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture
Jaren Bonilo, San Francisco Arts Commission 

This session is a part of the 2020 Annual Convention and Public Art & Civic Design Conference

Jaren Bonilo

Senior Program Officer, San Francisco Arts Commission

Jaren Bonillo is the Senior Program Officer at the San Francisco Arts Commission providing leadership in grant-making strategy, cultural equity and community arts investments through the distribution of approximately eleven million dollars annually to nonprofit arts organizations and individual artists. 

As a grantmaker, nonprofit director, and artist, Ms. Bonillo has over 15 years of experience in the arts and culture field. Prior to joining the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC), she oversaw the California Arts Council’s (CAC) state-wide general operating grant programs, the State-Local Partnership program, and the Statewide and Regional Networks grant, as well as the Professional and Organizational Development grant programs. She also served on the CAC’s Equity Committee and co-led the CAC’s participation in the Government Alliance for Racial Equity (GARE) Capitol Cohort. 

She holds an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.

Deidre Thomas

Director of Grants, Houston Arts Alliance

In her role at HAA, Deidre’s portfolio includes oversight of five, city-funded grants programs that drive cultural programming throughout Houston. Her team focuses on continuous improvement, a culture of listening and learning, increased transparency, and philanthropic equity. She works closely with the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs to develop and implement strategy, policies, processes, and special initiatives to support, shape, serve, and lead the cultural landscape in the nation’s most diverse city.  


Deidre served a 3-year term on AFTA’s Emerging Leaders Council & was awarded a fellowship with the Culture Lab Library, a project of Alan Brown of WolfBrown, to curate a collection of literature and other media responding to inequity in cultural funding. Her panel service includes the 2018 Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Project, 2018 Project Row Houses and Center for Art and Social Engagement Fellowship, and Fresh Arts’ 2020 Artists Inc.. 


Deidre holds a B.S. from University of Houston in Sociology with a minor in African American Studies, and a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance program (formerly American Humanics). She currently serves as an advisory board member for Robin’s House Family Foundation and as board member for G.R.A.E. (Growing Real Alternatives Everywhere), youth and social justice organizations respectively. 

Kathy Hsieh

Cultural Partnerships and Grants Manager, City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture

Kathy Hsieh is the Cultural Partnerships & Grants Manager for the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. A change agent in transforming the Office’s community engagement and arts funding practices through a racial equity lens, she helped the agency earn Seattle Management Association’s first Race & Social Justice Management Award through her work developing innovative funding strategies that center the expertise and experience of communities of color. She leads the Office’s grantmaking team and manages the team’s organizational support programs. She is frequently invited to share her expertise with arts funders throughout the United States and Canada and has been involved with a racial equity learning cohort of Arts funders that developed RE-Tool: Racial Equity in the Panel Process, a collaboratively designed resource for grantmakers to address racial equity in the panel process. She has served on advisory committees, boards, or panels for many community groups including People of Color in Philanthropy and Theatre Puget Sound and has been honored as Verizon’s Asian Pacific American Bash’s Innovator Award in 2012, is the 2015 International Examiner Community Voice Awardee in the Arts, received the Gregory Award for Sustained Achievement in 2017, and the Seattle Chinese American Citizens Alliance’s 2019 Fred Yee Citizens Award.

  • Registration Closed


Breaking Down Structural Racism in Grantmaking
Live event: 06/23/2020 at 12:45 PM (EDT) You must register to access.
Breaking Down Structural Racism in Grantmaking CAPTIONED
Captioned Archive Recording You must register to access.