Changing Perceptions

Artists who we invite to co-present workshops, convenings and meet & greet encounters are continually surprised when we mention that we will be remunerating their services through AZ ArtWorker. I seem to encounter the general perception that artists and culture-workers are lucky to be in these roles; therefore, we need not remunerate their work when it is not a tangible thing that we can touch and admire.

It has been most rewarding to treat local Arizona artists with the same degree of thoughtfulness and respect and financial support that we offer our national and international artistic partners. Changing and engaging in conversations around money and fair compensation of intangible creative work has been an unexpected and welcome part of the work the initiative is undertaking.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Paying Artists

Public Commitment to Organization-wide Racial Equity

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Power (open, equitable, and culturally relevant)

AFTA Statement of Cultural Equity

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Power (open, equitable, and culturally relevant)

GIA Racial Equity in Arts Philanthropy

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Power (open, equitable, and culturally relevant)

Improving Artists’ Financial Situation

It’s one thing when a large organization says, “We want to give grants to artists” and they award applicants with a check. The artists are rewarded for the quality of their art and the strength of their proposal. But the kind of relationship we have with artists requires a different level of trust: we are trying to understand their financial situation so that we can help them get to a better financial place. We’re trying to understand their business practice to help them get to a better place with how they run the business side of their art. That takes a high level of trust and that kind of trust is challenging to build in any circumstance, and especially challenging when you are at a distance from where the people you serve are living.

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Local Community Partners

As we’ve expanded to other regions, we definitely had to rely more heavily on community partnerships or having organizational partners that could be mouthpieces for our organization. It assures artists that we are legit, and that we have their best interest at heart. Because we’ve been in the game so long, they think it is worth getting to know us and coming to trainings and taking advantage of grants and coaching that we offer. 

We still have a ways to go to build all of the right kinds of partnerships to make sure that we’re hitting all aspects of the community. We want to serve more artists of color, we want to be sure that we have community partners that will help us reach more artists of color. We want to introduce them and other underrepresented groups to our services so that they can build their art practices.

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I work with Artists Artists Survive Community Connections

The Nuts And Bolts of Public Art Day

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

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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'Shark Tank' Pitch Competition

We run a ten-week program that is sort of like a shark tank pitch competition. We recruit local creative businesses that have been in business for up to two years that are looking to take their business towards the next level. From those applications we whittle them down to about eight finalists, and they go through this really intensive mentorship program. Each business is partnered with one local business mentor, someone that could provide them the expertise that they need to develop their business plan. The creative businesses are given a small business loan specialist to help inform this intensive scope that they’re hoping to present on that will then afford them $15,000. And then we also have a $5,000 people’s choice award. So, in total someone could win up to $20,000 during this competition. Anyone in the region is eligible. Through this competition to date we have awarded about $73,000 that has gone back to the local economy. This will be our third year in doing the competition. Businesses in the last couple of recent years have been successful in insuring that their businesses got to this next level. They have either hired employees, they’ve elevated their business to a brick-and-mortar storefront, or they’ve been able to launch a secondary line of their business. Each year we’ve grown audiences who have come to this event. Last year we had about 530 attendees. Not only are they getting this financial backing that ensures that they’re able to do the work that they intend, but they’re also given exposure to other people, and getting people exposed to their business and what they’re offering. It’s been successful in the fact that what we’ve set out to help these businesses grow, and have done just that. And that’s by us being able to give them the financial and fiduciary backing that they can execute these business plans they’ve put together during the ten-week mentorship program.

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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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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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Jazz Festival

All artists receive payment or honorarium for any services they provide in partnership or on behalf of our organization, even those that we commission for public art or those that are contracted to perform during the jazz festival. Most times artists invoice us for any service that they provide to us or for us. They invoice us, so for projects that are grant funded, we adhere to the budget amount that was submitted in the grant proposal. That is communicated to the artists prior to them being commissioned so that they are aware of what the artist fee would be. As far as the artists that perform in the festival, they are on contract. So they tell us what their contract fee is to perform. That is working with all artists on all the stages. For any other service that we need we ask artists for an invoice and they tell us what their rate is.

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Always Pay Artists

It is our practice to always pay individual artists. We understand that we would never ask any other profession, any other person who relies on their talent, skill, intellect, to give their services freely unless it were explicit that it was a volunteer opportunity or something that fell in the realm of philanthropy. So, it is always our practice to pay artists for the work that we ask of them. We often get third party requests. Someone will come to us and say, “Could you get an artist to donate their time to create a mural?” or “Could you get an artist…” and we are very clear that they need to negotiate that with the individual artist and that we ourselves are not in the practice of asking artists to do things for free in the open market. We pay artists to do collateral for us, to create marketing materials, graphic design materials, and we always pay them for that. We help facilitate a festival here and we ask artists to contribute to the festival through panels, discussions, and participation in workshops. We pay them for their participation in those endeavors. Whenever we do workshops or ask an artist to provide their perspective or their insight or their direct talent, to informing the community or any other work we pay them to do that. We also pay them to perform: we haven’t really done formal fundraisers, but if there’s an event that we are sponsoring or supporting and we want to engage artistic practice in that, we make sure that we budget for artists to participate.

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Artists Are...

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Misdiagnosed Barrier

At the insistence of an important funder, we provided translators for our one-on-one consultation time, this resource was little used and we struggled to explain to the funder that it was because the vast majority of artists from this particular community were 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants who spoke English and practiced art forms like hip-hop, graffiti art, and spoken word. There were barriers (such as the diversity of our instructors, or a nuanced understanding of their cultural experience) to programming, but language wasn't one of them.

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I work with Artists Artists Struggle Power (open, equitable, and culturally relevant)

Statewide Arts Convening

We often think about paying artists during our state-wide arts convening, which is for both individual artists and arts organizations to build networks and introduce new concepts. As an agency is that we’re working really hard for the norm to be that we always pay artists. We are also in a position of feeling that we would like to pay individual artists more for their work. So, during convenings, we will pay artists, via contract, to perform – or, present or do contracted work. And then times that we haven’t paid artists, we usually work to compensate them with a full conference attendance fee waiver. It’s a way to provide a non-monetary incentive or non-monetary benefit to them as a professional artist.

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Arts Festival with No Artist Engagement

A new performing arts festival launched with no artist leadership and without consulting artists. During the first season, there were extensive problems with production, communication, and marketing; many were "disastrous" from the artists' point of view. No effort was made to assess or post-mortem the first year's issues.

Unaware of the issues, and with no mechanism for assessment other than the festival's self-reporting, foundations continued funding the festival. Artists who attempted to communicate concerns to the festival and to funders were brushed off as complainers. Artists began to tell one another: stay away from this festival

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists

Workshops without Artist Input

After a months-long program hiatus and staff turnover, the new education manager attempted to solicit input from artists about their professional development needs using an online survey. Very few artists completed the short questionnaire and many responses were too broad to be of much use, so the education manager created a season of workshops without a strong sense of artists' perspectives. These workshops were severely under-attended, indicating the focus topics were not of interest or need for local artist community.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists

Relentless Artist

An artist working in our city is very interested in green/blue infrastructure issues at the city and neighborhood level. This is tied into her creative work to recast fiber as an urban, sustainable and people of color practice. She was relentless in finding out the information about meetings (which are not transparently posted on the city's website), attended meetings and ultimately worked her way on to the task force. The task force now sees the benefit of including artists in their work - but there is no mechanism for this to become the norm for the way the city thinks about constituting its community taskforces, services, planning and departments across the board.

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I work with Artists Artists Give Up Engaging with Artists