Make|Learn|Build Grant Program Overview

The Regional Arts & Culture Council launched the Make|Learn|Build grant opportunity for artists, arts organizations, and arts businesses in Winter 2021, seeking to support the local arts community while we remained in the pandemic lockdown. Throughout the last 16 months of shifting public health guidelines, new variants, social unrest, and climate events, RACC was able to offer two rounds of the grants each fiscal year, totaling four grant cycles open to the community, with Round 4 grant awards most recently announced at the end of March 2022.

The Make|Learn|Build grant was set up to prioritize breadth, reach and access. We worked to expand our technical support with Instagram live events and recorded Info Sessions with ASL interpretation, along with team member grant writing guidance through panel feedback and draft reviews.  It touched a lot of people and achieved significant impact during an uncertain time.

It allowed RACC to move away from past grantmaking standards (i.e. matching dollars, in-kind support, limits on eligible expenses, required in-person events) and put the emphasis on supporting community values and voices.

In total since January 2021, we experienced the following:

  • 1,661 applications
  • 1,364 unique applicants
  • 30 Community Reviewers
  • 85% BIPOC* representation in Community Review Panels
  • 48 Zoom panels
  • 806 grant awards
  • $2,310,500 awarded to artists, arts organizations, and arts businesses
  • 755 unique grantees
  • Average 52% BIPOC* artist support across 4 rounds
  • Over 457 technical assistance sessions for draft reviews and panel process feedback

*not including responses in “I describe my ethnicity/race as”

RACC launched the Make|Learn|Build grant program with the goal of supporting 50% of the applicants, which was a higher percentage than past funding rates (typically between 30% to 43%). This funding rate was possible with the smaller award amounts (average of $3,000 grant, rather than an average award of $5,000 in Project Grants.) This goal became harder as the number of applications began to skyrocket, but through the four rounds of the program, RACC was able to support the entire process at 48.4%.

Some other highlights of this program have been the following:

  • The pandemic hasn’t slowed creative folks down. People are making art!
  • A simple, accessible application welcomed in new and first-time applicants. This has allowed for more risk-taking. It also resulted in explosive growth in the applicant pool.
  • The need in the artist and creative community is huge. By making smaller awards to a wider number of grantees, the support was able to reach more people. However, great ideas and projects were still left on the table, as always.
  • Paying artists for their professional role as Community Reviewers is important. Reviewing applications and making decisions is WORK. By paying artists for their time to evaluate, they could step away from being applicants and their own artmaking and have comparable compensation.
  •  Reviewers are responding to what they want to see in their community – clear impact on community and value-based investment.
  • Making the full grant award up front puts trust in the work of the artist or organization.

As we move forward into the next vision of RACC grant programs, we know that we will be opening back up to arts projects proposed by all types of entities, including other nonprofits, businesses, institutions, schools, and community groups beyond those rooted in the arts. We will also be working to support individual artists in the many ways that they are creating and sharing art and culture. However, public presentations and a plan to share work with an audience will be important as a way to show community impact. One benefit of the new normal is acknowledging that virtual presentations and digital distribution are an accessible way to share your work.

Based on the recent RACC Planning Survey from Winter 2022, we know that Grants are the number one way that the community engages with our organization (79% of respondents). The majority of the survey respondents find RACC services and programs to be moderately or very accessible (78.4%) but feedback also shows there is ongoing work to do. Grants Team members are working to incorporate all our most recent lessons learned into the next phase of RACC grant support. Stay tuned!


FY2022 Make|Learn|Build Community Reviewers

Sarah Brahim

RaShaunda Brooks

May Maylisa Cat

Melina Coumas

Kapu Dancel

Jay Flewelling

Celina Flores

Elizabeth Higgins

Shobha Jetmalani

Laura Martinez

Megan McGeorge

Christine Miller

Sushmita Poddar

Logan Ridenour-Starnes

Paul Susi

garima thakur

Jennifer Viviano


Sample Quotes from grantees:

“This grant process is streamlined and made easy for artists who are not part of a non-profit, and don’t have a lot of experience with grant writing and reporting requirements often associated with those types of grants. This is frequently the only source of funding for many marginalized community members. We are grateful for these opportunities.”

 “I appreciate that during this very challenging year, RACC was flexible and allowed me to modify my project, and offered their help and support every step of the way.”

“I appreciated that this grant payout was not broken up into two payments like my last RACC grant. It was such a breath of fresh air not to have to hold off on paying hard-working contractors promptly instead of holding their payments until the project was completed. Thank you for trusting me and believing in me once again to make my art and hire indie filmmakers in Portland.”

“Thank you for providing opportunity and flexibility in a time that severely lacks these things.”

“One standout feature of this grant is that the total amount of the award was disbursed at the beginning of the project. Without this model I would not have had the necessary funds to cover expenses because of the challenges faced with work during the pandemic. This model of financial support made a big difference in helping this project happen.”

“I really appreciated the support in getting my declined first-round application reviewed and revised for submission the second time around. It was great getting specific feedback, and of course, having that result in a successful application the second time around.”

 “The Make|Learn|Build Grant has my greatest appreciation and gratitude. This grant really hit the mark in making things possible during 2021!”

“I think it’s been one of the more welcoming grants I’ve applied for. The application wasn’t overwhelming or complex. I think the simplicity of requirements make it more inclusive to underrepresented groups.”