Luce Foundation Makes $3M in Emergency Grants to Support Communities and Organizations Affected by COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to be recognized in the US, Henry Luce Foundation staff have worked closely with colleagues, partners, and grantees to understand the needs of affected groups and organizations. Those efforts came to fruition in April, when the Foundation awarded $3.1 million in emergency grants to aid fields and communities that the Foundation has long supported. In addition, the Luce Foundation approved requests to reallocate more than $1.75 million from existing project budgets to salary or general operating support at grantee institutions. The Foundation expects to continue awarding emergency grants in May.

The 23 emergency grants constitute a concerted effort to sustain museums and cultural organizations, to provide relief to Native Americans and other vulnerable communities, and to support and mobilize higher education and research institutions. They include:

  • Grants of $60,000 to $250,000 to support staff salaries in small and mid-sized museums in Santa Fe, Tulsa, Portland (OR), Asheville, and Phoenix, as well as grants to larger museums in New York and elsewhere.
  • A $250,000 grant to the American Indian College Fund to enable instruction to continue remotely during the pandemic at tribal colleges.
  • Contributions to emergency funds established by the Modern Language Association, the American Academy of Religion, and Xavier University in Louisiana, a historically black university that has long received support from the Foundation's Clare Boothe Luce Program for Women in STEM.

Sustaining Museums and Cultural Organizations

The Foundation has sought to aid art museums and other cultural organizations that have suffered significant financial losses as a result of the pandemic. Endowment losses, the disappearance of ticket revenue, and a decline in fundraising have, together, put museums in a very precarious position. The Foundation has made funds available to these arts organizations—primarily from the Foundation’s American Art Program, but also the Asia and Theology Programs—so that they can keep staff employed and collections safe and secure.

In addition to assisting individual institutions, the Luce Foundation has contributed $100,000 to the NYC Arts Organizations Collaborative, a consortium of 15 New York City-based arts organizations that seeks to raise funds to support staff salaries in the coming months.

Altogether, $1.86 million in new grants has been awarded in the arts and cultural sector, and more than $1.4 million has been reallocated for salary and general operating support. The Foundation has, so far, been able to assist 37 institutions in eleven states and the District of Columbia.

Providing Relief to Native Americans and other Vulnerable Communities

The Foundation’s Initiative on Native American Intellectual Leadership seeks to support Indigenous knowledge makers and knowledge keepers. These individuals—and the communities they serve—have been severely affected by the pandemic. Some tribal nations—especially in the Southwest—have seen high rates of infection on their tribal lands. Almost all Indigenous communities have suffered as tribal revenue has fallen, and in some cases, even collapsed. Businesses have closed, jobs have been lost, and food and water have become harder to procure.

A grant of $250,000 to First Nations Development Institute has helped launch the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Native American communities. The effort is designed to address these growing needs by distributing funds swiftly and efficiently to Native nonprofit organizations and tribes. Already, First Nations has distributed more than $740,000 across the United States.

The Theology Program has launched an initiative to provide emergency support to vulnerable populations through community-based responses led by seminaries, divinity schools, and universities. The first such grant—to Vanderbilt Divinity School—provides aid to service organizations in the Nashville area. The Theology Program will continue to make grants of this kind in the coming weeks.

Altogether the Foundation has awarded $650,000 in new grants and reallocated $290,000 to aid Indigenous people and other vulnerable communities in the US.

Supporting and Mobilizing Higher Education and Research Institutions

Colleges and universities have been badly hurt by the pandemic. Nonetheless, they, and other scholarly organizations, continue to undertake critical research on the disease and on the social, political, ethical, and economic effects of the pandemic and the response to it.

For example, the Luce Foundation has committed to a federated funding strategy—developed in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation—to focus on electronic pandemic surveillance and its potential impact on democratic practices. Grants to NYU GovLab and the American Geographical Society are part of this effort. And a grant to the Social Science Research Council will seed the Council’s new efforts to support research on the COVID-19 era.

More than $600,000 has been awarded thus far to support the knowledge sector and critical research that will help us to respond, recover, and reinvent in the aftermath.

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