Tag: DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities

Developing a cultural plan for DC

ARTS | Last week, the DC Office of Planning kicked off a cultural planning process for the city. The cultural plan is intended to increase the role of the arts in the local economy, boost arts appreciation, and make the city more attractive to artists and creative industries (WAMU, 7/26):

Research by Americans for the Arts shows that when governments invest in the arts, they get sizable returns in tax revenue and jobs — and in 2010, nonprofit arts groups and their audiences contributed more than $80 million to D.C.’s economy. But the people who make art often say they can’t afford D.C., which has one of the priciest housing markets in the country. That’s why artist Holly Bass says the D.C. Cultural Plan should prioritize affordability.

“More focus needs to be on these sort of deeper policy issues of affordable housing,” Bass says, “and with that, also, affordable studio space.”

But beyond just deciding where the money goes, creators of the cultural plan want to foster appreciation for the arts in all eight wards of the city. That could mean putting more arts in public schools, supporting arts in underserved neighborhoods and formalizing a process for neighborhoods to plan cultural activities. All of this could lead to economic returns.

The cultural plan process is being led by the DC Office of Planning, in collaboration with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment. (And on a semi-related note, Holly Bass will be familiar to anyone who attended WRAG’s annual meeting last year, where she delivered a powerful performance on racial equity.)

JOBS/REGION | Thanks to growth in northern Virginia and suburban Maryland, the region added 81,100 jobs in the year ending in June. However, most of these jobs were in lower-wage industries. (WaPo, 7/22)

HOUSING | Zoning Change Could Give District 2,600 More Affordable Housing Units (CP, 7/26)

–  The CEO of Kaiser Permanente recently published an essay on racism in America and his experience as a black man outside of the C-suite. (Fortune, 7/18)

– Opinion: Charities, Stop Stereotyping People of Color as Needy (Chronicle, 7/1)

EDUCATION | What it’s like to be a D.C. high school student interning at a big federal agency (WaPo, 7/25)

Is the internet too 21st century for you? Take any website back to 1995 with this nifty GeoCities-izer! You can even GeoCities-ize the Daily.

– Rebekah

New video is live – Putting Racism on the Table: Implicit Bias

The third video in the Putting Racism on the Table series is now live! The video features Julie Nelson, director of the Government Alliance on Race & Equity at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, speaking on implicit bias. After you’ve had a chance to view the video, we encourage you to share your thoughts on the series or on the specific topic via Twitter using the hashtag #PuttingRacismOnTheTable, or by commenting on WRAG’s Facebook page. We also suggest checking out the viewing guide and discussion guide to be used with the video. Both can be found on our website.

WRAG president Tamara Lucas Copeland had this to say of the new release:

We are halfway through the video releases from WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table series! We appreciate you continuing to share your thoughts from the Professor john a. powell installment on structural racism, and the Dr. Robin DiAngelo installment on white privilege. We hope you’ll keep the conversation going with this latest release, as Julie Nelson highlights the ways in which bias and racism play out at the individual, institutional, and structural levels.

– The Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier CountiesGive Choose day, a 24-hour fundraising campaign for 60 area social profit organizations, is in full swing!

– The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities is seeking advisory review panelists for its upcoming grant season. D.C residents can nominate themselves or their peers to serve. Find out more about the opportunity here.

– The Healthcare Initiative Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to Mobile Medical Care, Inc. (MobileMed) and Aspire Counseling to support a collaborative program providing integrated behavioral health services for underserved Montgomery County residents.

A recent study by Stanford researchers finds that students in school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of four grade levels below their more affluent peers in the richest school districts. The study also finds large achievement gaps between white students and their African American and Hispanic classmates, especially in places where there are large economic disparities. (NYT, 4/29)

– AudioLocal D.C. STEM Careers Are Soaring – But For Whom? (WAMU, 5/3)

– A new report looks at the links between higher hourly wages and lower rates of crime. According to projections in the report, “raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would result in a 3 to 5 percent crime decrease (250,000 to 510,000 crimes) and a societal benefit of $8 to $17 billion dollars.” (Atlantic, 5/3)

Want to learn how to prepare cuter, faster (and I do mean very cute and very fast)  meals? This is the cooking show for you.

– Ciara

Housing tops list of worries for low-income D.C. residents

In a new report, researchers surveyed more than 600 low-income District residents to examine their most persistent stressors. Survey results revealed that, by far, most poor residents found issues surrounding housing to be their biggest source of anxiety. (WaPo, 4/4)

The main takeaway: Finding and keeping affordable housing is by far the dominant stress among low-income residents — more so than concerns about food, education or domestic violence.


Sixty percent of respondents said they worried about not having any housing in the future.

– How the Federal Government Plans to Stop the ‘Worst-Case’ Housing Crisis (City Lab, 4/4)

– Jeanné Isler of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) shares a recent conversation with WRAG president Tamara Lucas Copeland on WRAG’s Putting Racism on the Table series, and NCRP’s enthusiasm about what lies ahead beyond the series. (NCRP, 4/5)

– Congratulations to Amy Owen of the Community Foundation for Loudoun & Northern Fauquier Counties on being one of the Loudoun Times-Mirror’s 16 Women To Watch in 2016!

– Brookland in northeast D.C. will soon have its own Arts Park, with support from corporations and donors, including  the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities. (WCP, 4/4)

– Following a big revival in 2012, the Howard Theater continues to face struggles with financial woes. (WaPo, 4/4)

– With Studio Space Scarce In D.C., Fillmore School Building To Offer Reprieve (WAMU, 4/5)

SOCIAL PROFITS | Exponent Philanthropy makes the case for funders to invest in social profit sector talent in order to yield greater results on performance and impact. (Philanthrofiles, 4/5)

VIRGINIA | Though Fairfax County remains one of the nation’s wealthiest counties, it has been unable to avoid the pitfalls of a stagnant local economy amid an influx of new, often lower-income, residents. (WaPo, 4/2)

HEALTH/RACISMThe disturbing reason some African American patients may be undertreated for pain (WaPo, 4/4)

JOBS | The Council on Foundations is hiring for the position of Director, Corporate Philanthropy. Find out more here!


– Ciara

How segregation leads to shorter lifespans

Yesterday, new County Health Rankings were released with an added measure on racial segregation in America’s counties, in recognition of the fact that segregation has profound effects on an individual’s health outcomes. Evidence shows that racial segregation is making and keeping people sick. (Atlantic, 3/16)

Bridget Catlin, the co-director of the County Health Rankings, said segregation wreaks havoc on the body primarily by stressing it out. In addition to experiencing more violent crime, people in racially segregated pockets might be stranded further from good jobs or the transportation necessary to reach them.

The data might help explain why African Americans fare worse across various health metrics. The average life expectancy for African Americans is still four years shorter than for whites, for example.

– Racism and sexism can present themselves in various aspects of daily life, but the one thing that is probably most expected to be bias-free is surprisingly not – computer programs. Algorithms for computer programs are revealing some unpleasant truths about the ways in which biases persist. (NPR, 3/15)

ARTS | The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Age-Friendly D.C., and the District Department of Transportation have announced a $40,000 grant dedicated to public art with an anti-street harassment message. (DCist, 3/15)

– President & CEO of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers David Biemesderfer, was named one of the Top 25 Most Influential Philanthropy & Social Innovation Experts in the Business of Giving Newsletter, published by Philanthropy Media. Congratulations!

Related: In January, new to his role as president and CEO at the Forum, David shared with our readers why he was excited to take the helm of the organization and to support the work of WRAG and our regional association colleagues. (Daily, 1/27)

What Young Donors Respond to Today (Gelman, Rosenberg, and Freedman, 3/9)

– Opinion: We caused the Metro shutdown when we decided to let our cities decay (WaPo, 3/16)

– Though millennials have flocked to cities in droves for years, history and data show that is likely to change at some point. Here’s a look at how cities can prepare for the inevitable population loss. (City Lab, 3/16)

A missed opportunity has bewildered the region.

– Ciara

Competing visions for future transportation in the region

As the region works toward improving mobility and, therefore, bringing about greater development possibilities and growth, transportation officials grapple with competing views for the future. (WAMU, 2/17)

The region’s transportation planners are juggling bus lanes, bike lanes, and major highway and rail expansions in an effort to tackle the Washington metropolitan area’s notorious mobility problems. The proposed projects are tossed up in the air by the District and the suburbs and they land in a stack at the Transportation Planning Board, where they get in line for the federal dollars necessary for construction.

But instead of solely producing a regional vision for improving mobility and concentrating development around transit hubs or new interchanges, critics contend the projects represent narrow interests pitting cities against suburbs and transit-oriented communities against car-centered lifestyles.

HOUSING/WRAG | WRAG board member and trustee of the Corina Higginson Trust Wilton Corkern and wife Mary Bruce Batte share why they are investing in Our Region, Your Investment in order to create positive impact and grow the availability of affordable housing in the region. (Daily WRAG, 2/18)

– Washington City Paper checks in with D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities executive director Arturo Espinoza, Jr., three months into his tenure, on his plans to enhance the local arts community months after taking the reins of the organization. (WCP, 2/17)

Related: On March 1, WRAG and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities are co-sponsoring a briefing on the State of Arts Education in DC. This briefing is open to arts funders only.

– Here’s a very quick sneak peek at Dupont Underground’s first art installation. (Borderstan, 2/17)

DISTRICT | In the first of a series of blog posts on D.C.’s TANF (Temporary Assistance for Need Families) program, Consumer Health Foundation‘s Kendra Allen discusses just why these programs are so vital to working-class families in the area. (CHF, 2/5)

– Opinion: Tonya Allen, head of the Skillman Foundation, and Robert Ross, head of the California Endowment (both co-chairs of the Executive’s Alliance on Boys & Young Men of Color), offer nine ways that other foundations can aid men and boys of color in today’s difficult social climate. (Chronicle, 2/18) Subscription required

Want Our Expertise? Pay Us, Grass-Roots Groups Say (Chronicle, 2/16) Subscription required

ENVIRONMENT | Website tracks progress of Chesapeake Bay restoration (WTOP, 2/17)

Working in the social profit sector can have many long-term (but entertaining) effects.

– Ciara 

Continued hope for growth in Prince George’s County

In Prince George’s County, residents are hoping for a major federal government office project that could provide a long-awaited economic boost to neighborhoods along Metro’s Green Line. (WaPo, 2/7)

From Naylor Road to the final stop at Branch Avenue, the corridor is an aging but civically active community that has been planning and pining for one project, one little spark to trigger its long-awaited economic revitalization.

The past two decades have brought mostly disappointment. But two bids to build an office complex for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have renewed hopes that the economic renaissance the District is experiencing could spill over the border.

COMMUNITY/HOUSING/WRAG | Leadership Greater Washington (LGW) and WRAG recently teamed up on a discussion of housing affordability in the region as part of a session during their 18-month Thought Leadership Series. Check out some important topics that were raised at the event.

HOMELESSNESS/DISTRICT | D.C. has a long history of housing homeless families in motels (WaPo, 2/6)

IMMIGRATION/MARYLAND | Montgomery County, Maryland has welcomed more asylum-seeking individuals than most jurisdictions in the state over the past several years. Now, refugee assistance groups are asking for greater support in helping those individuals establish stable lives in their new place of residence, as meeting the high costs of living in the area prove to be challenging. (Bethesda Beat, 2/5)

– The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) recently launched its DC Heritage Grant Program. The program replaces the Grants-in-Aid general operating support program and provides funding solely to social profit arts, humanities, and arts education organizations that have provided at least seven years of programs and activities in D.C. Click here for further application information. The deadline for application submission is February 26, 2016.

– The recently reopened Renwick Gallery has attracted a wide audience and has proven to be a digital success. (Washingtonian, 2/5)

EDUCATION | Fixing Schools Outside of Schools (Atlantic, 2/4)

JOBS | The Weissberg Foundation is seeking an Executive Director.

There was a big televised mini-concert yesterday, accompanied by a football game. Here’s a brief, visual history of those mini concerts throughout the years.

– Ciara

Arthur Espinoza Jr. announced as new D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities executive director

The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities has named Arthur Espinoza Jr. as their new executive director. Previously, Espinoza served as managing director of the Washington Ballet. (WCP, 10/30)

Arthur Espinoza Jr., managing director of the Washington Ballet, has been named the new executive director of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He takes over for Lisa Richards Toney, who has served as the commission’s interim executive director since March.

This winter, the District is taking a slightly different approach to housing homeless families by placing them in shelter further ahead of the freezing temperatures that bring on a more urgent need for assistance. Despite the new approach, the city will still face a number of challenges as demand for shelter surges. (WaPo, 10/31)

PUBLIC HEALTH | Brian Castrucci of the de Beaumont Foundation shares four surprising things about the governmental public health workforce in his latest blog post. (HuffPo, 10/29)

SOCIAL PROFITS | The Rainmakers Giving Circle, affiliated with the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, is requesting proposals for its 2015-16 grant-making cycle from social profit organizations serving economically disadvantaged girls and young women living in D.C. Find out  more about the request for proposals and the Rainmakers Giving Circle.

PHILANTHROPY | Newer Foundations Focused on Regional Giving (Chronicle, 11/2)

JOBS | Northrop Grumman is seeking a Corporate Citizenship Specialist. Click here to find out more about the position.

ARTS & HUMANITIES/EQUALITY | Push for Diversity in Ballet Turns to Training the Next Generation (NYT, 10/30)

A brief history of the school backpack. Which one did you carry?

– Ciara

Retail sector employment rises, wages do not follow

The retail sector in D.C. has seen significant employment and sales growth over the last few years, but wages have remained stagnant. The D.C. Office of Revenue Analysis takes a look at the numbers and explores the reasons behind the slow growth that affects a number of workers in the District. (District, Measured, 9/30)

Despite the growth in the retail sector sales and employment, total payroll at retail establishments remained stagnant and earnings per employee, after adjusting for inflation, do not appear to have increased. In 1997, a retail worker in the District took home what would have been the equivalent of $25,642 today. In 2012, earnings were up by only about $1,000 compared to 1998, but down from earnings from 2007, which stood at $28,913.

Opinion: An instructor and restaurant server shares why she thinks people should stop applying labels like “low-skilled” when referring to task-oriented workers, and explains how perceptions can work to keep some people in poverty. (NYT, 10/1)

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | In their continuing Matters@Hand thought-leadership series sponsored by Enterprise Community Partners, HAND explores innovative affordable housing policies from around the country. (Helping Hands Blog, 6/1)

– DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson launched an initiative to expand AP classes in high schools across the city and increase course offerings available to low-income and minority students, but the failure rate has grown rapidly for students trying to pass the college-level courses. (GGW, 9/29)

– High schools across D.C. and Virginia saw rising graduation rates in 2015, consistent with nationwide trends. (WaPo, 9/29)

The Data Are Damning: How Race Influences School Funding (Atlantic, 9/30)

ARTS | If you’ve seen some pretty inspiring garbage trucks making their way through the District lately, thank the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities  in partnership with the Department of Public Works for hosting a competition featuring the original designs of local artists. (WaPo, 9/30)

IMMIGRATION | For Immigrants, the ‘Melting Pot’ Is a Mixed Bag (City Lab, 9/30)

Hopefully, you never find yourself in an emergency situation where you need to call the police. But in the event that you do, please make sure it is not for this reason

– Ciara

New report shines light on high rates of student trauma

The Children’s Law Center has released a new report detailing the high rates of trauma that many D.C. students carry with them from home to the classroom. The report also discusses the ways in which the public school system can effectively address the issue and bring about lasting reform. (WaPo, 6/24)

“Education reforms in the District will not fully succeed if schools do not address the trauma that students bring with them to class,” the report said.


Advocates argue that trauma is a pressing issue in the District, where 1 in 4 children live in poverty, with household incomes of less than $24,000 a year. In wards 7 and 8, the poverty rate is close to 50 percent.

Children from poor families are more often exposed to chronic stress and traumatic experiences. Last school year, about 4,000 D.C. public school students were homeless, the report said. At the end of 2014, more than 1,000 D.C. children were growing up in foster care. And with one out of every 50 adults incarcerated, many children have a parent in prison.

According to the report, children can be affected by a single event or by ongoing trauma. It harms executive functioning and their ability to regulate emotions and shapes the way their brains develop. Children who have been traumatized often feel unsafe and can’t concentrate. They may be withdrawn or have a strong emotional reaction to something seemingly harmless.

Click here to access the full report.

Opinion: Is Special Education Racist? (NYT, 6/24)

– Despite the closure of Rosslyn’s Artisphere arts center, the region’s creative community remains optimistic with a little imaginative thinking and support from sources like the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. (Washingtonian, 6/23)  

NoMa Parks Foundation Chooses Second Underpass Design (DCist, 6/23)

– This week, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a bill that will require all employers to give employees paid sick leave and paid time off. Though the bill will not go into effect until late next year, here are five things to know about the new law. (Bethesda Magazine, 6/23)

Minimum Wage For Tipped Workers Set At $4 In Montgomery County (WAMU, 6/24)

RACIAL EQUITY/DISTRICT | Digital legislative data company Quorum has released an interactive map displaying the concentration of race within the District’s neighborhoods. (DCInno, 6/23)

REGION | Cities and counties come to grips with the high cost of recycling programs (WaPo, 6/23)

NONPROFITS | RAISE DC announces their Data Spotlight Awards, highlighting the schools and nonprofits that use data in innovative and impactful ways to address challenges youth face from cradle to career.  Organizations can apply here by July 24 to win a $10,000 award for their data endeavors.

PHILANTHROPY | Grantmakers for Effective Organizations presents their newest publication, Learning Together, that examines open learning and evaluation practices among grantees, other funders, community members, government agencies and more, along with some informative case studies. (GEO, 6/17)

Multitasking at its finest…this baseball fan caught a foul ball while feeding his baby.  

– Ciara

Food banks in the region prepare for summer

Though Loudoun County is among one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, food banks there are preparing themselves for the summer surge in demand from many families who rely on their services (WaPo, 5/13):

More than 12,500 children in Loudoun public schools depend on free or reduced-price lunches through their schools, county education officials said. When the school year ends, the missing breakfasts and lunches place considerable pressure on economically vulnerable families, said Jennifer Montgomery, executive director of Loudoun Interfaith Relief.

“In the summer, you have this confluence of events — you have kids getting out of school, and now these parents are scrambling to pay for child care, and they’re also having to find food,” she said.


Although the percentage of people living below the poverty line in Loudoun is fairly low — about 4 to 5 percent, Montgomery said — about 30 percent of the county’s residents are underemployed and scraping by on less than a living wage.

Related: Tomorrow, WRAG will hold our first-ever Loudoun County Philanthropy Conference, focusing on the unique needs of the area with panelists representing the government, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors. The event will be held at the Middleburg Community Center and is supported by the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region.

A new report by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis finds that the need for further transit investment in Northern Virginia is critical in order to elevate the economy and spur business development. Business leaders and elected officials echoed similar sentiments at a recent gathering (Fairfax Times, 5/8):

“In order for this region to remain competitive, we have to have a 21st century transportation network,” said Robert Puentes, a senior fellow with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

Many businesses are already voting with their feet and choosing to relocate to more transit-accessible areas, according to speakers at Friday’s forum.

A Virginia Tech analysis of 2011 U.S. census data found that 59 percent of the jobs in Northern Virginia are located within a quarter mile of a Metro or VRE station or a bus stop. More than 90 percent of new office space in the region is within a half mile of a Metrorail station, according to Shyam Kannan, director of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Office of Planning.

HOUSING | In a recent ranking of states with the least affordable home prices using 2013 U.S. Census data, the District came in at number two behind Hawaii. (Time, 5/11)

Though it may not be as hot as it was yesterday, outdoor movie season is officially here!

– Ciara