In 2014, co-founders Alison T. McNeil and Nefertari Kirkman-Bey Pross began chatting about ways to create a space and community for Hamptonians that believed in the power of the arts to change lives. They were particularly interested in investing in artists whose art raised awareness about social justice issues affecting our communities. Alison and Nefertari both worked in the arts and saw disparities in funding people and the stories that mattered for them. Accordingly, they decided to do what they could from where they were to change that.
In August 2015, during Black Philanthropy month, Alison and Nefertari launched the Maynor Biggers Artist Fund (MBAF). The ladies then invited fellow Hamptonians that aligned with their values, got excited about the cause and would invest in the change they were creating by participating in MBAF. In the beginning, 8 Hamptonians accepted the call and helped to shape the Fund (i.e., our criteria, our structure, our goals, our review process). It’s now been 5 years, many more Hamptonians have joined the fold and MBAF has made unrestricted financial investments in 8 gifted artists that we believe are carrying on the legacy left by Dorothy Maynor and John Biggers. We consider it a blessing to be of service to this incredible arts & culture sector, to put our money where our mouths are and remain in community with our fellow Hamptonians.
How did we choose the name Maynor Biggers Artist Fund?
MBAF was named in honor of two incredibly influential artists & Hamptonians (Dorothy Maynor and John Biggers) whose work shifted the narrative about what it meant to be Black in the United States. Dorothy Maynor was an African-American soprano and music educator that founded the Harlem School of the Arts. Maynor was also the first African-American on the Metropolitan Opera’s Board of Directors. John Biggers was a muralist and the founding chairman of Texas Southern University’s art department. Biggers was one of the first African-Americans to receive a UNESCO fellowship to travel to West Africa to study Western African cultural traditions.
While both Maynor and Biggers have passed away, their legacy continues to impact the arts and culture field worldwide.