Visual Arts

Vital support to be given to cultural leaders in artistic activism, grass-roots organizations, and community-based art spaces


The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation is pleased to announce its 2021 cohort of grantees, following the sixth annual art and social justice initiative open call. 27 organizations from across New York City have been selected for their commitment to social justice through activities including artistic activism; programming in community-based museums, galleries, and public spaces; and under-recognized artistic practices.


“The Rubin Foundation 2021 grant awards recognize a stellar group of organizations whose work in the cultural sector models unique artistic practices that are both responsive to local needs and collectively engage with the many cultural communities that make up New York City. In a year of unprecedented hardship and uncertainty, the 2021 cohort was selected for each individual organization’s delivery of programs and services throughout the pandemic, and their exemplary work in supporting emerging art practices that facilitate collective action. The 2021 grantees represent a nuanced sensitivity to the political transformations of the past year that continue to reverberate today. What is especially exciting is many of the grantees’ visions for rethinking institutional and organizational practices towards greater equity and justice, with artists at the center of their work,” states Sara Reisman, Artistic Director of the Foundation.


For more than 25 years, the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation has advocated for access to arts and culture as well as social justice causes, and over the last six years has implemented an open call grantmaking process which has been in direct dialogue with the art and social justice field. The Rubin Foundation has been committed to supporting New York City-based nonprofit organizations whose work enacts change through community engagement, civic participation, and public discourse. Rubin Foundation grants will provide direct support to exhibitions, educational programs, activist initiatives, artists’ projects, publications, and general operating support.


This year, place-based organizations – including museums like El Museo del Barrio, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Queens Museum – pivoted to deliver cultural programs and more essential services to their local neighborhoods. Similarly, historic houses such as Old Stone House & Washington Park, Weeksville Heritage Center, and Lewis Latimer House Museum, offered New York City residents opportunities to connect – both virtually and in-person – around educational programs that honor local cultural history. Organizations that serve culturally-specific communities like the Asian American Arts Alliance, Asia Art Archive in America, and the African Film Festival, Inc., received support for their programs that are at once artistically generative and politically engaged to promote civic participation.


Organizations such as Dance/NYC and Summertime Gallery support accessibility and disability through residencies and exhibition opportunities for disabled and neurodiverse artists. Advocacy for policy change is enacted by organizations like Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.), which is committed to fair pay for artists, Visual AIDS, which utilizes art to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, and Theatre of the Oppressed NYC, which partners with communities facing discrimination to inspire transformative action through theater.


Grantees selected this year demonstrate many of the values central to the Rubin Foundation’s art and social justice initiative – equity, accessibility, and fair pay to artists, activists, and cultural producers – that we hope will benefit both artistic and place-based communities. As in recent years, the grants awarded highlight the vital contributions of smaller organizations, many of whom have resiliently continued to deliver services to their communities during the pandemic, while upholding their ongoing work towards innovating experimental cultural practices, providing artists and cultural producers with platforms for participation in urban life.


2021 Grant Recipients


A.I.R. Gallery

African Film Festival, Inc.

Asia Art Archive in America

Asian American Arts Alliance

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

Brooklyn Public Library

CUE Art Foundation


El Museo del Barrio 


Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning

Lewis Latimer House Museum

Loisaida, Inc.

Materials for the Arts

Movement Research

Nuyorican Poets Café

Old Stone House & Washington Park


Queens Museum                  


Socrates Sculpture Park     

Summertime Gallery

Theatre of the Oppressed NYC      

Visual AIDS

Weeksville Heritage Center

Wendy’s Subway     

Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.)


About the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation

The Foundation believes in art as a cornerstone of cohesive, sustainable communities and greater participation in civic life. In its mission to make art available to the broader public, in particular to underserved communities, the Foundation provides direct support to, and facilitates partnerships between, cultural organizations and advocates of social justice across the public and private sectors. Through grantmaking, the Foundation supports cross-disciplinary work connecting art with social justice via experimental collaborations, as well as extending cultural resources to organizations and areas of New York City in need.

Contact: Abby Addams