Arts & Culture Investment Fund

Arts & Culture Investment Fund

Under the Cultural Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) plan adopted in 2004, UMEZ seized upon the distinct competitive advantage provided by Upper Manhattan's cultural institutions to support community building through a cultural and economic lens, as one of New York City’s primary cultural districts. 

In This Page
Upper Manhattan's Cultural Legacy
CIIF Overview
CIIF Funding Strategies
CIIF Eligibility and Restrictions
CIIF Application Process
Upper Manhattan's Cultural Legacy

Upper Manhattan has long been home to a remarkable concentration of arts organizations. These nonprofit groups, representing multiple art forms, traditions, and aesthetics, comprise a broad and deeply rooted industry with a rich history of nurturing vital new expressions in music, literature, and art.

From the beginning, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation (UMEZ) believed that this cultural community, with its wide range of programs and activities, held a natural appeal for a wider public. These organizations shared many challenges, however, including inadequate staffing, limited access to funding, run-down facilities, and insufficient means to build visitorship; thus, they offered a powerful platform for UMEZ to conduct economic revitalization in the Zone.

The Cultural Industry Investment Fund (CIIF), working with a finite pool of grant funds, has designed its investment strategy to encourage long-term, permanent change for the Zone’s cultural organizations. The result has been to leverage the strengths of Upper Manhattan’s nonprofit organizations and artistic leadership to generate significant job creation, tourism, and economic activity, while strengthening their capacity to nurture new cultural legacies. The UMEZ study, Leveraging the Power of Cultural Investments, shows the impact that UMEZ has on the emergence of Upper Manhattan as a cultural hub of NYC in recent years.

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Cultural Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) Overview

Cultural Industry Investment Fund grants are made specifically to build administrative capacity, support organizational development, and promote sustainability. UMEZ does not fund benefit events, galas, or other similar charitable activities. Funding is not available for recurring expenses such as production costs, public programming, benefit events, or general operating support; nor is funding provided for arts education programs or for organizations who work primarily in arts education and/or training. Other funding restrictions can be found below.

Because UMEZ was created to serve a specific geographic area, investments are limited to organizations that are located within the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, are relocating to the Zone, or can demonstrate that program attendance/participation is composed of at least 70% Zone residents.

Each CIIF investment is tailored to the applicant organization and its specific goals. In general, at least one-half of the project cost must be funded by other sources of income. UMEZ grants have extensive reporting requirements; thus, applicant organizations must have a minimum budget of $100,000, among other eligibility criteria. Grant considerations include how many new jobs will be created, impact on significant growth of tourism, and how the results will be sustained once UMEZ support has ended.

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Funding Strategies

The CIIF makes the following direct investments. Detailed descriptions can be found through the links provided.

Implementation Grants

Strategic, time-limited investments are awarded to underwrite creative, effective, and measurable responses to specific challenges through Implementation Grants; funds are used to execute selected portions of an organization’s strategic plan, revenue generation campaigns, or other long-term efforts to develop the organization’s capabilities.

Technical Assistance Awards

Support is provided to organizations that make singular and essential contributions to Upper Manhattan’s cultural landscape to strengthen their management through Technical Assistance Awards; funding is given to secure expertise from a roster of UMEZ-approved consultants who can assist the organization in defining the elements needed to address a specific need.

Capstone Grants: Merit Based for Past Grantees 

A limited number of merit-based awards for exemplary past grantees are intended to enhance prior investments through Capstone Grants; these awards are designed to support large-scale growth as an organization engages in a long-lasting transformation of organizational capacity.

Capital Grants: Cultural Facilities

Selective investments in the strategic development of cultural facilities are made through Capital Grants; funds for capital projects are provided to eligible organizations whose facilities contribute significantly to the cultural ecology of Upper Manhattan and attract meaningful visitorship.

Catalyst Fund: Creating Tourism

Marketing and promotional support to build cultural tourism in Upper Manhattan is provided through the Catalyst Fund; grants are made to nonprofit partnerships for projects with potential for significant impact on visitorship while garnering increased knowledge and sustained efficiencies in marketing.

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 Eligibility and Restrictions

An applicant organization:

UMEZ CIIF grants generally will not fund:

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Application Process

Letters of inquiry (LOI) are accepted on an ongoing basis. Applicants are encouraged to send all materials listed below in digital format to culture@umez.org or to the appropriate program officer, if one is currently assigned. LOIs may also be mailed or delivered to the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, 55 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027, Attn: Cultural Industry Investment Fund. Incomplete letters of inquiry and applications will not be accepted.

1. Send a letter of inquiry, not to exceed two pages, that includes:

2. The LOI must be accompanied by the following materials:

3.  Applicant organizations accepted for further consideration will be contacted directly for a pre-assessment meeting. In the alternative, UMEZ will send a letter declining the letter of inquiry. If contacted for an appointment, groups should be prepared to discuss their organization's goals in detail and the rationale behind the request for support from UMEZ. Key organizational personnel will be required to attend the first meeting. This could include the executive director, deputy director, finance director, and a member of the board of directors, preferably the chairperson.

4.  Once an appropriate structure for a request has been determined, UMEZ will provide templates for the submission of a full proposal from the applicant organization. UMEZ subsequently conducts a thorough review and approval process through successive levels of governance. Additional documentation is required for grant execution, thus the entire process can take from six to 12 months.

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