Equity in the Arts

Grants Awarded

Joyce C. Willis

About the Grant

The Joyce C. Willis Fund for Excellence and Equity in the Arts is a visionary initiative to support Black artists. Launched in 2020, its goal is to support excellence and equity in the arts with gifts totaling $500,000 to The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, Hartford Stage, and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

The program is named in honor of Joyce C. Willis, a former Roberts foundation board member, founding member and past board president of The Amistad Center, board member of The Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and ardent supporter of Hartford Stage. Willis, who retired from The Hartford Financial Services Group as Vice President of Corporate Communications in 2005, died of COVID-19 June 2020.

Each organization will receive $150,000 over two years and may apply for additional funding from a $50,000 fund designated for ancillary programming.  The Amistad Center will establish a residency for an emerging or mid-career Black artist to create a new body of work which will culminate in a major exhibition in 2022.  Hartford Stage will contract a Black director for a two-year residency who will work with other artists of color to create a powerful production for the theater’s main stage each year.  The Hartford Symphony Orchestra will inaugurate both an Educational Diversity Fellowship for student musicians of color and engage three Black musician/composers in residence to work with the orchestra and in the community.

The fund was established in response to the killing of George Floyd and so many other people of color.  The foundation is committed to advancing racial equity (read our racial equity statement ) in the arts by increasing its investment in Black artists and all artists of color as well as providing high quality arts experience for students and families of color in the greater Hartford area.

In addition, the foundation hopes to help nonprofits it funds increase the diversity of their boards, staff and audiences as well as encourage local nonprofits to embrace cultural change and increase their investment in artists of color.

News & Announcements


Hartford Stage

  • $75,000
  • Funding to support the Christopher Betts residency

Hartford Symphony Orchestra

  • $32,000
  • Funding to support the Melissa White residency


The Amistad Center

  • $60,000
  • Funding to support the Merik Goma residency

Hartford Stage

  • $75,000
  • Funding to support the Christopher Betts residency

Hartford Symphony Orchestra

  • $50,000
  • Funding to support the Quinn Mason residency