Questions Raised About ArtPlace's 'Geographic Favoritism'

ArtPlace, a public-private collaboration launched last year to help spur the revitalization of cities and towns across the country through support for local arts projects, appears to award a majority of its grants to organizations located in the same states as its funders, the Star-Ledger reports.

In 2011, the partnership, which includes eight federal agencies, six financial institutions, and ten private foundations — including Ford, Rockefeller, and Kresge — awarded millions for artist housing, music festivals, business incubators, and public arts projects. But more than half of the thirty-four recipients in the initial funding round were located in the same states as the foundations that fund ArtPlace, receiving roughly 70 percent of the $11.5 million awarded. In the organization's second round of grants, which will be announced in May, 60 percent of the 127 finalists are located near the headquarters of an ArtPlace funder or in a geographic area that is a focus of an ArtPlace funder's grantmaking.

When contacted by the Star-Ledger, ArtPlace spokesman Tim Halbur said that some of the funders target their giving to the communities where they focus their grantmaking. He was uncertain how much of the initiative's $25.5 million was restricted.

Meanwhile, some arts organizations in New Jersey that have received nothing through the program expressed concern about its transparency. "[It] isn't a truly national program if it's catering to the regional priorities of the funders," said David Miller, executive director of Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, and former director of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. "When private sector funders partner with government entities and use their names and resources, I believe they then must assume an obligation for complete transparency and responsiveness to the applicants."