In 2018 I took a trip to Montgomery, Alabama to visit The National Memorial for Peace and Social Justice. It is partially dedicated to the 4,400 known victims of lynching in the United States and made national headlines when it first opened that same year. The other focus of the Memorial is mass incarceration: a system of control that serves as a modern form of the Jim Crow laws.
It has been widely and correctly observed that the internet has become the new “town square”. Breaking news, social dialogue, commerce, the arts, political activism, and even classroom education has all gone digital, a process that has been accelerated by the coronavirus. Moreover, this shift has meant that organizations and businesses alike have to incorporate digital media into their daily operations. With this in mind, The Gifford Foundation decided at the end of last year to bring on a fulltime team member to concentrate primarily on communications.
Accessibility has become a top priority for arts organizations, and it takes many forms. While some efforts are focused directly on surviving the coronavirus pandemic, others are designed to break down the barriers that have historically kept communities of color from participating in these institutions. The leadership at the Everson Museum of Art is working to connect these initiatives towards a common goal of building connections with larger and more diverse audiences.
In November of 2020, The Gifford Foundation together with the CNY Community Foundation invited Abby Wilkymacky and Kim Larkin to host a three-part Digital Collaboration workshop for nonprofit organizations in Central New York. Held virtually, these sessions were designed to teach participants how to smooth the transition to remote work, host more constructive meetings, and reimagine the traditional processes behind brainstorming and goal setting. The primary avenue through which Wilkymacky and Larkin taught these sessions was one that many participants were not expecting: the arts.
Theaters, galleries, museums, and performance halls of all types have been among the most drastically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Relying on live and often crowded events to engage with the public, most arts venues across CNY and the world have had to shut their doors since March of 2020. The drive to stay afloat has pushed many to redesign their operations – investing in streaming technology, virtual experiences, and improved communication with patrons. While there is no doubt that the current situation is dire, many hope that these changes will lead to a more vibrant, democratic, and accessible arts scene in the future.
We sat down with Councilor Joe Driscoll to discuss the challenges surrounding engagement during a pandemic, fake news, and how to fight back against a loss of faith in our civic institutions.
We preach the value of self-assessment to all of the organizations we work with. After running the ADVANS capacity building program for more than 13 years and investing nearly $4 million into it, we wanted to properly gauge its impact and effectiveness. The completion of this report marks the first time in the Gifford Foundation’s history that a program evaluation of this nature and magnitude has been conducted.
Across Central New York, the United States, and the world – 2020 has been a year defined by disruption. As we prepare for the holidays and look ahead to 2021, we need to understand what that disruption really means and how we can prepare for it. At the Gifford Foundation, we believe that the key to this lies in balancing consistency in mission with flexibility in practice.