Artist Fellowships with Artist Input

A local foundation had long supported arts organizations. An artist board member proposed funding annual artist fellowships as a missing piece in the city's arts ecosystem. He organized several convenings of artists and professionals to build out an inclusive, high-impact fellowship program. Artists propose their "next step" artistically, not their next project, a crucial distinction for artists caught in cycles of project funding. Applicants can be emerging through established, and application and reporting requirements are streamlined. The fellowship panel is half artists, and the foundation continues to seek out feedback as the program evolves. The roster of its funded artists is a who's who of the city's artists, and fellowship recipients often travel and learn new skills, things that enrich the (sometimes insular) artist community.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Artists Collaborate to Develop Programs

Artists collaborate in development of programmatic initiatives within a given framework as both students and mentors. With a new residency program in development, a fundamental curriculum of entrepreneurial skills and artist-centered focus topics is developed based on years of programmatic experience and relationships with business professionals and working artists throughout the field. However, a given portion of the focus topics are left TBD until the resident cohort is selected so that the curriculum can be tailor made to address the hopes and needs of the artists in the program.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Authentic Feedback

Throughout 2016, Artist Trust worked to build feedback loops between the organization and artists we serve. In an effort to better understand the needs of individual artists in Washington State, we created a comprehensive survey that asked artists about their biggest successes, challenges, and what supports they need. The feedback received through this survey has informed AT's programming throughout the past year. This year, we have chosen to evolve the survey into a two-pronged data gathering & engagement strategy: an annual census survey and a project we are calling Institutionalizing Informal Conversations, in which we have developed a series of questions for our staff and board to ask artists in casual conversations at events and informal environments. We are collecting this information for storytelling and to gain deeper understanding of Washington's artists' needs.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

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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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Services and Programs

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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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Services and Programs

Artist-Led Policy Platform

To ensure that the arts and creativity were a key issue in the 2015 mayoral race in Nashville, TN, the Metro Nashville Arts Commission (public sector) and the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville (private sector) spearheaded creation of a coalition of artists and creative businesses called "the Creative Edge" recognizing that, simply put, creative people are Nashville's competitive edge.

Led by a steering committee of 15 artists and arts supporters, the Creative Edge coalition grew to include of over 150 artists, artist cooperatives, and creative businesses. The Creative Edge platform identified four areas for the next Mayor of Nashville to focus on for investment and public policy to support the creative community and hosted a mayoral forum (attended by all of the mayoral candidates) to seek commitments on these issues.

Thanks in part to this effort, Nashville elected the most arts-friendly Mayor and City Council in recent memory.  Further, the Mayor has already made good on one of the four commitments which was appointing a position in the Mayor's Office to coordinate policy and services to members of the creative industries.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Advocacy

Rural Program Office

Springboard's Rural Program office in Fergus Falls, MN creates permanent local resources that are 1) local adaptations of our urban offerings 2) new programs based on the needs and assets of the community. Because artists have regular, ongoing access (beyond just a staff member that drops in a few times a year) they are more engaged, more able to shape programming and have an entirely different quality of relationship with the organization and services.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Organizational Capacity

Being Flexible & Uncomfortable with the Unknown

When I first began my work in the AZ ArtWorker program I was really looking forward to engaging multiple communities in Douglas. The launch of the program, which took place in this city was immensely successful and so my expectations when we opened registration for an asset mapping and community organizing convening were high.

Only a week away from the program, we only had 3 registrants. To say that I was worried is an understatement. We engaged Dr. Maribel Alvarez who works with communities in Tucson and engages with the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture and we were responding to requests from artists and community organizers in organizing this type of workshop, so we assumed that the program would be a welcomed offering.

On the morning of the workshop, held on a Saturday morning, in a local coffee shop, several community leaders and artists slowly tricked in to participate in the workshop. Out of the 9 participants who joined us that day, we hosted the new Mayor, the Douglas Hispanic Chamber Membership Director, members of the Douglas Community Coalition, a realtor and several artists; in short, community members who are devoted to making a marked and profound change in the way in which the arts can be engaged to creatively problem-solve the different challenges being faced by Douglas’ communities. It was that morning that I realized that what might make me comfortable as an arts administrator (high numbers and early registration) is not something I would find in Douglas. Registration is not a good indicator of what participation will be and the only way to get the word out is by directly communicating with multiple and varied stakeholders. Flexibility and being comfortable with the unknown up to the last minute have marked the only strategy that has worked in serving and working with Douglas.

At the end of the day, Maribel's workshop engaged these leaders in active dialogue with one another, something that doesn’t always happen even in this small rural community. The engagement also served to connect them with a national leader in community organizing, who conveniently, is also their neighbor. When the day’s work was finished, we all shared a meal in an adjacent restaurant, breaking bread and sharing stories.

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

W.A.G.E.

Providers are becoming W.A.G.E. certified to show they’ve made a commitment to operate ethically in relation to artists and wish to have this commitment acknowledged by their communities.

A W.A.G.E. Certified organization signals that it stands in solidarity with artists as part of an equitable community no matter what their material practice or reputation might be.

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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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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Services and Programs

Inviting Artists to Create Our Agenda

Almost ten years ago now, we were taking a pivot to understand directly what we could do to help the artist community. We held an artist focus group with a really diverse group – old and young, black and white, Latinx, straight and gay. The artists helped us analyze, through a SWOT analysis format, what we could be doing for the community. We took the output of that meeting, put it into a survey, found every creative person in the region we could and invited them out to weigh in on what our agenda should be for the next several years. That’s led to the need for networking amongst colleagues and access to underutilized space, specifically in the urban core. That work has led to what became “Artists Meet-n-Greet” that started to draw upwards of five hundred artists per event. It turned into a combination of gallery collaborations, which has now turned into a roughly forty-venue, once-a-month bus loop that activates creative spaces, artist pop-up spaces and other businesses that want to engage in the arts.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

Budgeting for Substantial Artists' Fees

Our organization works with artists in many capacities – we teach artists, we ask artists to perform at festivals and run hands-on activities, we find them opportunities like when we recently booked an act for the City Council swearing in ceremony. They are all local paid artists. We have our monthly third Saturday event here on the center’s campus. Those artists get paid. We actually pay an independent curator. That was actually where the idea for our bigger festival came from. We were hiring an independent curator to curate each event and design the whole thing and that idea of actually paying local artists to be curators was something new for us that started with the one event and now has sparked to the full big festival in March. So, we pay a lot of artists. And then we also pay the touring, national and international, artists for our performing live program, which is our big presenting program. This year’s budget for artist fees is well over $2,000,000. So we’re paying a lot of artists.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

Artist-Designed Art Walk

About eight years ago we took over coordination and promotion for First Friday Art Walk downtown. When we did, we engaged with the artist community and asked for ways in which we could improve the event. And then we did so. And over the next few years, Art Walk kind of blew up. It became a major attraction, and the number of people downtown just went through the roof: there would be tens of thousands of people during the summer months swarming downtown. The result of that was that we heard from the business community that they really loved it, but some of the gallery owners and artists who worked in cooperative galleries and similar spaces struggled to keep up with the glut of people coming through. So we led a two year community conversation with local artists and with business owners of downtown to try to find ways in which we could make First Friday Art Walk more effective. That even meant finding ways to make it a little bit smaller. That process was successful because we were actually able to work with the downtown business alliance to take a major summer event and move it from Friday to Saturday. That way, it didn’t make First Fridays untenable in the terms of the numbers of crowd that was downtown, and it made the day more of an art event.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Engaging with Artists

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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Integrating Paying Artists Full Wage Throughout Our Work

The story about paying individual artists is critical to our mission –when we do things, especially for our fundraisers, we make sure artists are paid. One of the things the city is known for is the birth of the studio glass movement. The fine art glass movement started here in our community a little over fifty years ago. When we hold events to promote the history of this in our community, we also conduct an exhibition that ends in an auction and in the closing event with that auction, we begin the bidding with the auction price guaranteeing the artist full wholesale value, as if they were to work with a gallery, and then we begin the bidding from there upwards. So the artists are paid before our organization can generate revenue off of the artwork. We’ve transferred that process over to any other auctions that we do, and make it a point to pay performing artists that join us at any of those events. We’ve worked to expand that at different activities where we’ve raised additional funds to make sure that we can hire performers to come out, instead of just relying on them to busk for revenue. We’ve worked to integrate paying artists in pretty much wherever we can through our programming.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

Paying Artists Throughout the Process

I think a lot of people think, “Oh, you like drawing and painting, you should want to do it for free.” And that’s not something that we want to do. So any project that we’re involved in, unless there has been a reason, we always pay. Part of our process, especially with public art, is that we include a design concept fee. Everyone gets paid for their design. Typically, it’s two to three artists that are selected for that phase. And then with the partner or on behalf of the partner we will select one individual to move forward with in the final design, for which they are compensated. Then they have the opportunity to say, “I want to execute the design” or “I just want to oversee the project and ensure that someone else who is executing the design is doing it with integrity in regards to the style and aesthetic as well.” So, we will pay them for that next step as well. Honestly, I can’t think of anything we haven’t paid an artist for.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

A Deep Commitment to Paying Artists

Now when I utilize artists for labs, I have them often as mentors and advisors to emerging filmmakers. I pay them $1,000 a day. I make sure when I write the grants to do these programs that the artists get paid because I want the best for the emerging artists coming up. You know I used to work with a guy who worked in the financial inclusion space, and he used to work with these really, really poor people giving them cash grants that they could use to send their kids to school and get them health care. And they would find these women running for office and all these things but they were unconditional cash transfers. And his thing he used to love to say was, “For the poor, nothing but the best.” Because you can’t just give, you know, the pittance of what you have left as a society to poor people. It’s like the bar needs to be high. And so, for me, for artists, I have to model the world that we want to see. And their work is of such deep value, especially now in the political situation that we’re living in. So, I don’t do programs unless I do pay the artists who are running them. 

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Paying Artists

Artist-Driven Community Change

There are a couple of recent efforts where artists try to reach parts of the state that we have not typically been able to serve very well. One of them is really grounded in community arts development. It’s a project that’s happening in a federally-designated promise zone. It’s six counties on the Interstate corridor. Historically, it’s been difficult to give grants to these counties. But we’ve just started a new project in this region, the most successful of which is in this very poor, rural county. We’ve identified in each county a person that we call the maven, somebody who is deeply rooted in the community, but who can work with us on sort of an administrative level. And the person in this county is an artist, a musician who has had a long relationship with us. She has become kind of the spark plug for this community arts development in her town and county. She’s organized a local group to work with her and we’re providing some funds. They’re just getting into all sorts of business, that town. The town really needs all the help they can get. There is this blighted lot that used to be an old roadhouse that long since has gone out of business and fallen to rubble – we’ve helped the artist turn it into a park and performance venue. It’s something that the community is going to be really proud of and get a lot of use out of. It’s exciting to see that an artist in the community is really driving the project.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Community Connections

Building Personal Relationships Cross-Sector

We do cross-disciplinary labs that bring filmmakers, technologists, scientists, and NGO leaders for a day or two-day crash course. We explore new models of storytelling, and we also go into a deep place of what it means to collaborate and what it means to bring your full self as an artist. We’re there to not only spur imagination and creativity, but also to build personal relationships. That’s what collaboration is about.

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I work with Artists Artists Thrive Community Connections