The Kresge Foundation and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition

Artistic and Culturally Significant Business Research Opportunity

Photo by: © SeanPavonePhoto – stock.adobe.com


NCRC is seeking to partner with members to learn more about the banking and credit challenges of businesses in the Black and Latino communities. In particular, we would like to connect with member organizations – advisors, lenders or partners – that work with small businesses that are culturally significant. Culturally significant establishments are essential to their communities, particularly communities of color. These businesses help shape safe, vibrant and welcoming spaces; provide valued goods and services that align with resident interests and needs, and both champion and preserve the cultural identity of the area it serves. 

Your engagement as a member will inform NCRC’s research on the current state of investment in these businesses and key promising practices to support growth and retention. In our recent report, “The COVID Pandemic and its Impacts on Culturally Significant Businesses,” we interviewed Black business owners and learned how these businesses struggle to remain in business and how their role is important to the maintenance and replication of culture in their community. This project will culminate in the development of a report on our findings and recommendations as well as a national discussion with critical resource stakeholders.

Grant Overview

With support from The Kresge Foundation, NCRC is offering three $5,000 grants to members who work with artistic or culturally significant Black- or Latino-owned businesses. Selected applicants will be asked to identify 5 to 10 small business owners with at least one full time employee who can participate in a virtual convening to discuss the challenges they encounter in operating and expanding their businesses. The convening will be approximately two hours. Each business participant will receive a $100 gift card for participating. Organizations must also send one representative to NCRC’s Just Economy Conference, June 13-14 in Washington, DC. The $5,000 grant will be awarded after NCRC staff evaluates each submission for the best overall fit with the project aims.

The data you provide will be collected by NCRC for a research study, which NCRC plans to publish in a report. Your information will remain confidential and NCRC will take reasonable precautions to anonymize responses and data from participants to remove personal identifiers (names, addresses, business names, etc.) prior to publication. NCRC will require you to sign a release prior to your participation in the virtual convening, which will be broadcast, recorded, and/or live streamed.

For the convening, NCRC is particularly looking for small, culturally-significant businesses that are Black and/or Latino-owned and/or contribute to the art, culture and creative economy.

NCRC defines a business to be culturally-significant if it fits into the following criteria:

  1. History – The length of time the business has been in the community.
  2. Location – The value or importance of the place where the business is located. The community can gather there and be comfortable, sharing experiences and information.
  3. Function – The particular goods and services offered by businesses are important or serve specific needs of the community or they reproduce the culture of the community.
  4. Relationships – The staff or owners engage in meaningful, often sustained, interactions with residents and patrons.
  5. Political and economic context – There is a historical persistence of inequality and unfairness for businesses and the communities from which they hail.
  6. Symbolism – There have been pivotal factors that have coalesced into cogent representations for the business owner and the community they serve or where they are located.

Arts and culture-related businesses can be defined as those within the following categories:

  • Arts and Entertainment: BIPOC-owned art galleries, cultural centers and/or museums; dance, video, film and/or theater studios and companies; event spaces and planners, brand consultants and/or arts education companies, etc.
  • Publishing and Advertising: BIPOC-owned book publishers; web and graphic design developers and consultants; digital content creators;
  • Retail: BIPOC-owned apparel companies and fashion studios; restaurants and food venues;
  • Creative Industries: BIPOC-owned architecture and design firms; digital tech and gaming companies; toy and clothing manufacturers, etc.

Examples of the intersection of arts and cultural significance include businesses previously referenced in our NCRC report, such as:

  • Zawadi – A shop specializing in African art, home goods, and clothing, Zawadi has operated in Washington, DC, for over 30 years.
  • Sankofa Video, Books & Cafe – Specializing in the retail distribution of books and videos related to the interdisciplinary study of the diverse Black experience, Sankofa also offers artists, community groups and scholars a place to gather and talk and present their work.
  • Capital Lounge – This sports bar offers traditional Baltimorean food in the Pennsylvania Avenue area of Baltimore.


Contact us for more information about this research opportunity, or to explore opportunities to collaborate or support our independent research and other projects.

NCRC encourages a broad interpretation of art and culture and doesn’t wish to suggest that the businesses listed in this document are exhaustive. If you feel a business is appropriate for this grant, you have the opportunity to explain why in your submission.

Application Deadline:

April 15  – 11:59 pm EST

The online application function will become inactive after this deadline.

Applicants will be required to provide the following information:

  • Organization Name
  • Point of Contact:
  • City and State of Organization
  • Identification of 5 to 10 businesses:
  1. Name of Business
  2. Name of Business Owner
  3. Email and/or Phone # of Business Owner
  4. Number of Full Time Equivalent staff.
  5. Industry of Business
  6. Brief Description (e.g. How would you describe this business’s cultural significance ….)

About The Kresge Foundation:

The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress. Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Using a full array of grant, loan, and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change. For more information visit kresge.org.


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