A Runway to Growth: Investing in Philly’s BIPOC Creative Media-Making Community

Nuala Cabral
3 min readJun 1, 2021

Thirteen organizations in the Philadelphia region are receiving $2,081,000 in support of media making.

Image source: Love Now Media

This year IPMF is holding a mixture of grant cycles including invited proposals, open-calls and nominations. In April, IPMF invited proposals from core grantee organizations who received grants in 2019 and/or 2020. We define “core” grantees as organizations who directly align with IPMF’s goals to lift up storytelling and creative expression as pathways for communities building power. Additionally, we prioritize organizations that are Black or brown led, and women led, and have budgets under $1 million. While these organizations offer tremendous value, many have struggled to secure the funding they need to thrive. We hope that investing in these organizations will give them the runway they need to grow, deepen their work and experiment on their own terms.

In this round, IPMF approved $2,081,000 in grants to thirteen organizations. These organizations explore a range of media making efforts, a reflection of IPMF’s expansive definition of media, including journalism, community media, movement media, film, and archive projects. The majority of funding ($1.46 million) is going towards creative media-making organizations that center the voices of BIPOC communities, which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. We know that creative media-making is an incredibly important outlet during this challenging time, helping communities process what is happening around us and find connection safely through our distance. We are inspired by the ways grantee organizations have adapted to this pandemic to engage their audiences safely.

For example, IPMF made a two-year operating grant of $200,000 to Sisters in Film & Television Media (SIFT) Media, a cooperative that is led by and centers Black and Latinx women-identified independent media artists who work in the Philadelphia region. Throughout the pandemic, SIFT has fostered community among women filmmakers of color and provided opportunities for virtual screenings and professional development.

Image source: Asian Arts Initiative

Asian Arts Initiative (AAI) received a one-year programmatic grant of $75,000 to support community engagement with and accessibility to their Digital Broadcast Studio, a project born out of recent capital improvements to their blackbox theater. AAI uses programming to intentionally connect with Asian American community members, including immigrant and refugee populations, many of whom do not speak English as their first language. Since 1993, AAI has also worked to build solidarity among Asian and Black communities through the arts and they are still committed to building creative connections between the struggles of Asian American and Black communities in Philadelphia today.

In our discussions about requests, IPMF staff and board members raised the following questions:

  • How do we help organizations grow at a pace that feels appropriate — not overwhelming?
  • Which organizations have been operating with very little money for a long time?
  • To what degree should we support organizations that are historically well funded?
  • How do these organizations collaborate with others? Do they have the reputation of a good collaborator?
  • How can we be intentional about offering capacity building opportunities that position grantees to be more strategic with their business plans or revenue streams?

After robust discussion and reflection, IPMF made decisions based on need, leadership and a demonstrated partnership with community. As this pandemic and related intersecting issues continue to evolve, we take seriously our commitment to invest in organizations that are responsive and accountable to the communities they serve. We look forward to celebrating the array of storytelling, collaboration and power building that comes out of this grant cycle.

Read the Press Release here.



Nuala Cabral

Program Officer at Independence Public Media Foundation