Building a Coordinated Cross-Sector Partnership

The Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville (ABC Nashville) created Periscope: Artist Entrepreneur Training, a program to ensure that artists can thrive in Nashville with a team of partners who bring different expertise and resources: Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Nashville Chamber of Commerce, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, and Nashville Mayor's Office of Economic Development. ABC Nashville identified these partners and built consensus around the importance of retaining artists as well as attracting more artists to Nashville.

With a shared goal as the focus, the partners were able to combine traditional business expertise with artist expertise to create Periscope, a program tailored to the unique needs of artists that is much more robust and sustainable than a multitude of individual programs would have been. Further, having one coordinated program is much easier for artists to access and navigate!

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Training Adapts to New Art Forms

In 2016 the Arts Council New Orleans debuted a Local Artist Training Program to teach a small group of our artists skills and tools around making large-scale installations with light and technology. This was in preparation for our LUNA Fete, in which we commission such projects largely from international artists although we're changing that with the help of the program. Immediately following the completion of the program one artist had made and displayed at a gallery an entirely new series of work made possible by the use of the MadMapper program she had learned. Another artist was offered a scholarship to attend the New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program, which is where we sourced the primary instructor for the initiative.

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Developing Teaching Artists

In our spoken word program we partner with an organization that has multiple teaching artists in their core. We have now been working in partnership with them for about five years, where those artists work with us in numerous schools, five to six schools a year, in afterschool programs once a week. They work with the students in gaining all kinds of literacy skills starting with creating a safe student centered work environment, and then building their confidence and their voice for writing, for performing what they write, for collaborating in teams with their fellow students, and ultimately for participating in public presentations of their work. Those artists have been paid, so they have been given paid opportunities to hone their own skills.

They’ve created a community with likeminded artists from some of our other engagement programs, where they can share and grow and develop opportunities for mentoring. In many cases those artists end up being put in situations for projects with us where they’re getting to meet national artists who work in their field, and work with them in different ways on our campus. And so, there’s both professional development in that relationship, there’s the experience that is so important for someone to hone their skills and be able to market their skills to others, there’s the incredible relationships over time with different schools and students, and the kind of exposure and promotional value of having it be a program we are proud of and that we market to the public as a free public event that culminates the program in each spring.

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Training for Art School Faculty around the Country

We have one training program that’s for arts school faculty to be able to teach their art students about career protection. We subsidize their attendance. They can come from anywhere around the country, and then we do the training at a specific place. So their attendance is subsidized and we get twelve to fifteen art school faculty members who are also practicing artists to engage in a training. Since it is such a small group, they really get to bond. We do a site visit to a makerspace so they get a sense of what an arts community is like in an area that they’re not from. Those tend to form really strong bonds over the years for the folks that have attended to that workshop.

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Celebrating Artists with the Whole Community

When I was first hired here we started an awards program – like the Oscars – for the arts in the city. It was about recognizing and celebrating the work of individual artists in a way that would excite and engage the whole community. When we first started it, we didn’t know if the community would really support it or get behind it, and they did. The event kind of blew up and has become, now nine years later, one of city’s most anticipated events every year. What I think I’m most proud of is that, at the core, it’s about recognizing artists individual work and celebrating them in a way that the whole community can really rally behind and recognize.

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Broader Access to Networks & Resources

The Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, COPPeR, uses the AIR Institute curriculum to provide workshops in Colorado Springs that teach collaboration, design thinking, business planning and entrepreneurial mindset to local artists, creatives, business people, and community members. COPPeR has four trained facilitators who can teach the AIR:Shift Workshop. Individual artists now have broader networks and access to community resources, accountability buddies, and business planning skills. Also, because the program is designed to create local, implementable programs that encourage connections between the arts, business and community, we now have a new program that our local residents designed - Innovation Acceleration. The pilot program was purchased (new earned revenues) by our local workforce development agency - artists were paid to train 50 of their employees to access creativity and foster new ideas.

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Providing Opportunities for All Levels of Artists

One of the training sessions was a series of speakers who were professional public artists, fabricators, lawyers who specialized in the copyright issues, intellectual property, and other administrative issues. We called it “the nuts and bolts of public art day.” It was a kind of a crash course in all of the things that you need to know in order to pursue a career in public art, particularly in percent-for-art fund projects. We actually opened up that training session not just to the twenty-five artists who were selected to be a part of that placemaking program, but also to all of the artists who had applied but were not selected, because we felt like a lot of the reasons why those artists weren’t selected was because they didn’t have a firm grasp on what we were trying to get at in the application. We didn’t want to limit the sessions to the twenty-five who were selected but we wanted to make sure that other artists who had expressed interest in learning more about creating public art and placemaking projects had that opportunity to learn and grow.

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Artist Counseling, Not Just Coaching

The career-counseling piece is counseling. It’s not just advisement. It’s not just coaching. It’s really taking the person and saying, “Who are you? Who are you now? Where did you come from? What are your interests? What are your…strengths? What’s your personality type? How much money do you need? Where do you want to live? What kind of people do you want to be with?” This is a whole process and when people go through it, they land in places that are a good enough fit that they can stay there for a while and then they may want to say that “I’ve done this for awhile, what next?

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Artist as an Economic Driver

We started a larger program based upon a model of some grassroots artist pop-up events that were happening here. They were organizing large groups of artists in vacant buildings and blending that together with some professional practices that they had learned from a community in Washington, D.C. There are no barriers for participation, and the exhibition is non-juried. First-come first-served gets space. You have to volunteer x-number of hours to be a part of it alone, with a few volunteer requirements. The last time, between visual and performing, they had about eight hundred artists participate and over twenty thousand people come out on one of four Saturdays for the free community-based event. That has really catalyzed a change in the perception of the arts in our community: the artist is now seen as an economic driver. Nearly every building that we’ve been is moving forward into redevelopment. And many of the folks that have come through the program are starting their own brick and mortar businesses in the community.

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Including the Artist’s Point of View

The arts council brings together artists on a fairly regular basis. Whether they’re events, trainings and workshops, or opportunities to sell their work, or whether it’s in the community. One thing that we always do in our work in communities is to make sure that an artist’s point of view is included. A really good example of the way we’ve done this is that we have what used to be called a cultural districts program, now called the creative districts program. That’s basically a state designation of certain cities in the commonwealth that have a large capacity for arts and culture. They use this capacity to develop the community and the local economy. They really use their local arts and culture scene as an asset. So, as part of this process to be included as one of those communities, there has to be involvement from as many sectors as possible.

Two of the main things that have to happen are: one, there has to be a flagship arts organization in the community, and two, the whole creative district is basically centered around this organization. There has to be a committee that works on the creative district and is committed to improving the district. And that committee has to include artists and other arts organizations, but it also has to include the local government. The local government can’t just sign on as a partner; there are actually things they are required to do, like passing resolutions designating the districts locally. They have to be involved in several other ways. That’s one opportunity where we’ve been able to give artists and arts organizations an entrance into the inner workings of local government. We’re broadening their reach in the community and elevating their presence. We’re making sure that their perspective is always being included in decision-making times.

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Connecting Artists to Resources

We constantly try to make sure that artists are aware of all opportunities and resources that are available. These can be the opportunities and resources that we provide, or opportunities and resources that our grantees provide. We are trying to make them aware and also to forge relationships with organizations whose primary audience is artists. And we lobby these organizations to make sure that their constituents are primarily artists that are aware of the services and resources available to them.

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Artist Input Leads to Program Innovation

Cindy Ornstein, Director of Arts & Culture for the City of Mesa and Executive Director of the Mesa Arts Center, shares a successful process seeking artist input to design new, innovative programs.

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Promotional Toolkit

Artists who participate in our annual wholesale/retail event, Craft at the Market, all receive a promotional toolkit that has everything they need to promote their participation and their business, to promote their participation in the show through various means: whether that be through print media, radio communications, television, or more and more through social media. We provide them all the tools they need to do that, at the local level. We do our own promotions at the state and national level for that show, but also encourage them to promote themselves through their own channels and networks. That’s a really good example of something that is sometimes successful and is sometimes not successful, and it depends on the artist’s willingness to use the tools that are provided to them. What we have found is that the artists who will use what is sent to them, those who are really go-getters and who will share the information, that they have much better results than the folks who use one or two pieces of the information sent to them.

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Making Opportunities Available

We had people talk about available commercial space. We’ve created the opportunities, we haven’t really tracked how people have followed up with these opportunities, but we have created the opportunities. We also have resource fairs, particularly around artists who are also educators. So, we make it available but I don’t think we’ve followed up.

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Informal Connections

It’s not about bringing artists through our doors and introducing them to one another or an institution. It’s about trying to get people out to their openings, gallery exhibitions, things like that, because that tends to be where you have the best chance of even having people already there to introduce them to. So, we can’t be relying on them coming to us; we need to be doing a decent job of staying on top of the arts scene and its programming throughout the area, and making sure that folks in this city know about folks in that city. Sometimes that’s even just very casual: “Oh you’re looking for a studio, I know someone who is leaving theirs.” I wouldn’t say we have a lot of formal things encouraging that.

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Struggling to Help Artists Survive and Thrive in Place

Robert Gipe, Appalachian Program Director for the Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College, shares experiences with community based arts projects as well as the challenge of creating opportunities for young people who want to stay and thrive as artists in their hometown.

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Lacking an Authentic Voice

We’ve just had some experiences where we had high hopes that a certain individual, trainer, would be a great resource for our arts community and it just really didn’t work out. They weren’t able to bring the authentic voice that the artist responds to. If the artist starts to find that the person standing in front of the room or across the table from them doesn’t really know what it’s like to walk in the artist’s shoes, then they just become very skeptical of that person’s credibility. We find it’s just not a very productive professional development experience.

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Assumptions about Artists

In the partner program – because it is delivered by an artist who is totally sensitive to and supportive of the basic enterprise of just being an artist – when he talks about how he manages his time and learned how to do more of what he wanted to do and charge for it, they totally get it and they totally buy-in because it is all couched in terms of the reality of being an artist. Sometimes a business guy will come in and will talk with a group of artists based on his assumptions of who or what artists are…and sometimes that can be a little off-putting to artists who live that life everyday.

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Getting the Right Presenter

One thing we’ve struggled with is finding presenters who will offer information specific to artists. For example, we did a workshop about finances and doing your own taxes. The presenter was knowledgeable about the topics generally, but when the individual artists in the audience spoke up and asked questions about their artwork, the response was, “Well, I don’t specialize in artist taxes, so I can’t really speak to that.” The feedback was “Well, then you’re not the person that we need in front of us.” The artists left frustrated with the lack of specific information and felt it wasn’t worth their time. This was a great lesson for us to invest time in getting to know our presenters in advance and also a reminder that sometimes we should pass on a very well-credentialed presenter if they don’t have deep arts experience.

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