Arts and Culture Grantmaking at the Community Foundation

In General

As a program officer at the Community Foundation, I am responsible for the arts and culture portfolio, which is one of our largest funding areas. In an effort to contribute to building a strong arts and culture ecosystem, we partner with nonprofit organizations across the spectrum of size, program area and funding type. The first step in applying for a grant for your arts and cultural organization is to call me. We are quite sincere in our desire to save you time and increase your odds of a successful application. A conversation is the place to begin.

It’s always helpful to see what other organizations are doing with the Community Foundation grants, however. Whether a grant partners is launching an innovative new program or working to sustain a program that has stood the test of time. the Community Foundation’s broad grantmaking guidelines allow a range of organizations to access funding for their important work at key moments, when a grant can really make a difference.

Here are three examples that illuminate this point:

The Anton Art Center was awarded a grant in 2015 to support arts classes and guided tours for older adults in low income and assisted living facilities. The Senior Creativity Program engages an underserved demographic through accessible and affordable participatory arts activities that benefit mental health and wellness.

The program brings together an occupational therapist, student volunteers from the Humanistic Medicine program at Wayne State University and the Oakland University School of Social Work program. Working with 12 low-income residential facilities and eight assisted living facilities, the Senior Creativity Program teaches seniors watercolor and acrylic painting, colored pencil drawing, stenciling and paper sculpture. Many arts programs are youth focused– providing this experience for underserved seniors presents a unique opportunity that not only expands The Art Center’s programmatic offerings, but also the Community Foundation’s reach.

Living Arts was awarded a grant in early 2016 to support artist residencies with children from birth to age 5, and matching funds to attract individual donors. Through a partnership with the Wolf Trap Institute, the acclaimed national organization for early learning through the arts, Living Arts is reaching more than 1,100 children, teachers and parents. Living Arts places passionate, highly trained teaching artists in classrooms to create arts experiences that improve critical kindergarten-readiness skills for children.

These residencies help teachers develop strategies they can use throughout their careers.  Parents benefit by attending workshop and parent-child programs that model art-focused ways to boost learning at home. With this grant award, Living Arts can expand its critical work with the youngest children in Detroit, and strengthen the fundraising outcomes that are necessary to ensure the program’s permanence. It positions the Community Foundation to deepen its investment in populations that are less likely to be served by anchor arts and culture institutions.

The Arab American National Museum received a grant in 2015 to support comprehensive community engagement for its recently opened Annex. The 4,700-square-foot Annex is directly adjacent to the Museum, with movable walls, collapsible staging and a production space for visual and performing arts projects. The space affords visitors a more immersive experience through arts classes, community events, orchestra performances and more.

The Museum is working to increase public participation and engagement, to attract new and diverse audiences, and drive revenue generation. With an administrative structure that includes new marking and community engagement staff roles, the Museum is poised to create an environment in which the role of the museum is transformed to be responsive to the communities it serves.  The Annex is a model that has great potential to redefine the dynamic between museums and communities.

If you would like to talk about Community Foundation arts and culture funding for your nonprofit, I am hoping that you will reach out to me with a phone call or email. If you apply for a grant, you can expect a discussion about program plans, budget structure, and any other topics. As you plan for this conversation, know that the foundation thinks about its grantmaking through the lenses of sustainability, regional impact, capacity building, and collaboration.  We are also mindful of issues of equity, data-informed decision-making and community voice. We believe that these critical points are not “add-ons” but rather the necessary way forward for the arts and culture field to create more and more beauty throughout our region.

I look forward to hearing from you!

About the Author


Kamilah Henderson manages grantmaking to arts and cultural organizations for the Community Foundation. Before joining us, she served as an Evaluation Fellow at the Skillman Foundation.  Her previous positions include Program Evaluator for the Curtis Center for Research, Associate Director of the Arts and Citizenship Program at the University of Michigan, and Dance Education Coordinator for the Michigan Opera Theater.

Kamilah has master’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Michigan, and in Fine Arts from Ohio State University.  Her bachelor’s degree, from the Western Michigan University, is in Spanish and Dance.

To contact Kamliah, email