The Launch of the Virginia BIPOC Historic Preservation Grant Program
Images courtesy of DHR.||Photo: DHR||
We came in with a bang and introduced the grant program to hundreds of attendees at a webinar in early February. So, what now? Continue on to read about some of our successes so far, how we plan to improve outreach, and what to expect as far as next steps to take in the application process. By Caitlin Sylvester At DHR, we have been excited about the potential of the Virginia Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Historic Preservation Grant Fund program for over a year now – ever since the bill that established the Fund started making its way through the General Assembly session in 2022. The BIPOC Grant Program represents a long overdue effort to fund the preservation of important spaces for Virginia’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities that have been systemically overlooked, underfunded, and/or demolished. The preservation of these resources is vital to telling the whole history of our multi-faceted and diverse state. Funding for bricks-and-mortar repairs and property acquisitions is also somewhat scarce in historic preservation, so the focus of this grant on those activities as well as archaeological data recovery is very exciting. Once the legislation moved through the bill process and was approved by the governor, we hit the ground running by establishing a working group composed of DHR staff with wide-ranging expertise spanning from archaeology, cemeteries, and architecture to public outreach and grant finance. By working together and applying the specifics of the program as laid out in the bill language, we have worked on establishing grant guidelines and have gotten deep into the nitty-gritty of grant program development. Our working group meets once a week to go over the nuts and bolts of items like applications, manual, evaluation process, and fund disbursement, but we also address challenges that arise while building a program from the ground up. We are always working on community engagement, knowing that the ways in which we reach out as an agency can be improved. We have chosen to release the grant funding over a few application rounds so that we can continue to engage with groups and include more communities with the additional time. One of the successes we’ve experienced so far was the well-attended webinar sponsored by Preservation Virginia to introduce the grant program. Almost 300 registrants signed up for the event on February 1, which served as the kickoff webinar for Preservation Virginia’s 2023 Preservation Academy virtual series. With literally hundreds of attendees, the webinar attracted the largest audience the Preservation Academy has seen to date. Now available online, the webinar is a great place to get information about the timelines and requirements of the grant program, including details about which types of projects are eligible for funding. We also released the first step of the application and the grant manual on our website on February 15. Although we are starting to get things rolling, this grant program is still in development, and we are expecting it to evolve. We welcome your input through our BIPOC Grant Fund Public Input Survey. The purpose of the survey is to gather comments and recommendations from interested parties and communities across Virginia about project priorities, geographic areas of interest, how applications may be evaluated and/or selected, and any comments you would like to pass along. Anyone is welcome to participate, not just those who will be applying for funds. All submissions to the survey are anonymous. You can also reach out directly to BIPOCGrantFund@dhr.virginia.gov. We look forward to hearing from you!