FAQs & Common Challenges

Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions

 

1. Question: What is the goal of Artists Thrive?

Answer: The ultimate goal of Artists Thrive is to raise the value of artists in every community. More specifically, it is a set of resources that can guide us, whether artists or those who work with artists (or want to), in fostering the conditions in which artists can thrive. Think of Artists Thrive like a navigation system that helps us see where we are in our work, where we want to go, what is important to measure, and how we can improve. We can shape our future by evaluating where we are today.

 

2. Question: How can I use it?

Answer: There are currently two tools offered by the Artists Thrive initiative, one for artists and one for those who work with artists. The tools can be used in a variety of ways from self-improvement and reflection to advocacy to collaboration. They are meant to be customized, adapted, and applied to many situations to support your work. These tools can also be used again and again as a reference point for measuring how you, your organization, department, community collaboration, partnership, or artist collective is advancing toward your goals over time.

 

3. Question: Is there a fee?

Answer: Nope! Artists Thrive is (and will remain) free as an initiative supported by charitable organizations. There is also no requirement to login, create a membership, or otherwise share any information with us. You can use it as your personal coach. There is an option to share your responses with us if you want to contribute to the field’s learning in this area, but it is in no way expected.

 

4. Question: Can I save my answers?

Answer: Yes. Your responses are not automatically saved to allow you to use the tool however you like without worrying about how your answers might be used. However, you can save your responses by bookmarking your results using the link on the results page for your survey. We encourage you to create (and save) a new bookmark each time you take the survey allowing you to review your progress over time. You can also share the link to your bookmark with others such as team members, collaborators or advisors who you would like to discuss your results with.

 

5. Question: Do I have to complete the whole survey?

Answer: Not at all. None of the questions are mandatory as every row or category may not be relevant for you right now. Feel free to respond to what you choose and disregard the rest. You can skip to the results section at any point by using the button at the end of every section.

 

6. Question: Who created this?

Answer: Artists Thrive started in 2016 when a group of arts professionals and artists from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation’s community of organizational and higher education grantees began to explore the possibility of a creating an assessment tool for use by the entire field. This led to the first draft of the Artists Thrive tools. What began as a small leadership team of artists and organizers from across the country has become a broad network of collaborators with backbone support from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. Artists and organizations nationwide are now beginning to put these tools to practice and continuing to provide feedback and shape the tools.

 

7 Question: What did you mean by some of the key words used, such as “Artist” or “Community”?

Answer: The team creating the tools attempted to be as expansive and encompassing as possible when choosing language in the hopes that it would speak to any user. We invite you to customize the tool and substitute other language if these words don’t resonate with you and your individual context (see more below about customizing the tool under Challenge #1).

For this reason, rather than defining some of these key words, here is the frame the team had in mind for them:

  • “Artist”: we had in mind any individual pursuing an artistic discipline intent. Artists who create, perform, and/or engage in art across geography, discipline, expertise, education, age and gender were all intended to be included in this tool.

  • “Community”: we were thinking about the people you would usually discuss this type of thing with, whether online or in person. These could be people who are in close physical proximity to you or your peers worldwide. It’s up to you.

  • “Practice”: we used this term to refer to the way in which an artist goes about creating their work. This goes beyond the physical act of making the work and includes ideas, influences, and process.

  • “Resources”: this word is intended to encapsulate resources of any type including your time, skills, network, funding, education, and more.

  • “Skills”: similarly, we intended to capture any skill you value, both artistic and non-artistic, to encourage identifying and valuing all of the myriad talents you may have as an individual artist or one who works with artists.


But more importantly, what do these terms mean to you? The tools purposefully do not place constraints on defining who is an “artist” or who makes up your “community.”

 

8. Question: Where did the stories come from? Can I submit one?

Answer: Yes! The stories are from peer artists and arts professionals nationwide. Some have been submitted by collaborating organizations, some have been created at artist gatherings, and others were submitted directly. We would love to hear your story about ways you have struggled or thrived with your work as an artist or with artists. Please contribute here: https://artiststhrive.org/share-your-story.

 

9. Question: How can I get more involved?

Answer: Start by taking the survey yourself. We also invite you to join our email list to be a part of this growing initiative of diverse people all over the country. Then get on the map!

 

10. Question: Would someone come to my town/organization to lead a presentation or workshop?

Answer: Absolutely! Please contact us to share more about what you have in mind and make a plan: https://artiststhrive.org/contact.

 

Top 10 Common Challenges

 

1. Challenge: I get stuck on some of the language used in the tool.

Solution: Write your own! Feel free to customize the tools and substitute other language that resonates with you. You can use our templates here to start with a blank form and build your own: https://artiststhrive.org/resources/rubric. One way to approach this is to discuss the intent behind each row, reframe it so that it is relevant to you, and write your own language for that row. Be confident in creating your own rubric by specifically describing what matters to you. You could also do this exercise as a group to co-create language that is meaningful to your network. 

 

2. Challenge: I like some aspects of the tool, but I wish others were different.

Solution: No problem! Don’t feel obligated to accept the framework as it is. We encourage you to re-envision the framework. If a portion of it doesn’t apply to you, replace that section with language that would make it apply to you (see point #1!). Or feel free to just take the portions that are relevant for you. You don’t have to use it all.

 

3. Challenge: I want to share this with my colleagues, but I’m not sure how because the tool is very text-heavy and intimidating when presented in the rubric format.

Solution: We totally understand. While some people may love to see the whole rubric, others may not. You don’t have to share Artists Thrive in its full format. You can just take a section of it that feels timely to you right now and come back to the rest later. For example, if you’re thinking about how to make more studio time, you could start with the category on “Practice” in the “I Am an Artist” rubric. Each category could be a conversation starter.

 

4. Challenge: But really, rubrics are wonky.

Solution: We hear you. Rubrics are indeed wonky. If it doesn’t resonate with you in that format, don’t frame it that way. Move beyond critiquing the tool itself and consider the purpose behind it. This is designed to help you create momentum toward your success.

Use the tool to prompt questions such as: “What are your values?”, “Where would you like to be on the spectrum?”, or “What conditions do you see in your community that lead to artists thriving? To artists giving up?”.

All tools have limitations, and rubrics in particular are by design always a work in progress. Focus on the purpose, not the imperfections of the tool. And share your feedback with us as well, so each version of this tool gets better.

 

5. Challenge: I feel like the rubric is judging me.

Solution: This is not a tool for judgement. The way you use it is completely up to you and your responses aren’t tracked in any way unless you choose to anonymously submit them to us. You should be 100% candid during this process and reflect privately on what your responses might mean for your practice and your work. Or you can work through the survey as a group and discuss what you learned. Rather than feeling that the tool is identifying areas of weakness, use it in the spirit of generosity and encouragement. This is your personal coach. It offers a roadmap for improvement in the areas you most care about.

 

6. Challenge: I see how Artists Thrive could spark conversations, but I don’t feel like I possess the expertise to lead these conversations and I don’t have the resources to hire a facilitator.

Solution: That’s okay. You don’t need an expert to have a great conversation. Artists Thrive provides you with a framework and lots of food for thought. All you need to do is gather your peers and charge one person with asking questions to invite conversation, such as “What do you think?” and “What matters to you?”. Don’t let lack of professional facilitation be a barrier to advancing your conversation. You can also check out our handy tips on how to be your best facilitator self here (note: we will link to facilitation tips from Guidebook).

 

7. Challenge: The funders and policymakers we work with don’t understand the concepts put forth in the rubric around valuing artists.

Solution: You can still use this language to support you and your work regardless of whether funders are familiar with Artists Thrive or not. Funders typically look to you to determine you how you will evaluate your work and impact. You can include the concepts around paying, celebrating, and valuing artists in your grant and partnership proposals to illustrate ways you will evaluate your work. Your funders and partners will follow your lead.

 

8. Challenge: I’m concerned that Artists Thrive is competing with existing professional development offerings for artists.

Solution: Not at all! Artists Thrive complements the work of organizations and individuals providing professional development to artists. It is a free tool for anyone to use and we encourage others to incorporate it in any way it might be useful.

Many organizations are using Artists Thrive as part of their evaluation process to understand how artists are progressing from “giving up” to “thriving”. Others are asking artists to complete the assessment before workshops or one-on-one sessions to better understand who will be present in the room.

And, on the individual level, artists completing the survey may identify areas they want to focus on in the coming year allowing them to prioritize their professional development efforts.

 

9. Challenge: My organization would like to use the Artists Thrive tools for evaluation, but we aren’t sure how to do that if the rubric will keep changing.

Solution: Rubrics are not quantitative assessment tools, meaning they’re not designed to scientifically gather reliable datasets to help you judge and measure past performance. Rather, rubrics are intended to be used to improve performance in real time. Artists Thrive offers forward-looking assessment tools that start with our shared end goal of raising the value of artists in every community and working backwards from this vision to describe how we can get there. It can be a very useful component in your overall evaluation process, but keep in mind that it is more focused on shaping the future than evaluating the past.

 

10. Challenge: This Artists Thrive stuff sounds interesting and I’d like to take the survey and explore the resources, I just don’t have time.

Solution: We know that this work takes time. However, doing the same thing over and over again won’t help you reach your goals. In order to change behavior, you should set aside time for assessing what is and isn’t working. To put it another way, you don’t have time NOT to do this.

You could start with a small incremental step such as setting aside 10 minutes each week to complete one category of the survey, reflect on your responses and your goals, and plan backwards from your vision of success to identify strategies you can use to reach it. The key is to schedule a recurring meeting with yourself and honor it as you would any other important appointment. Invest in yourself by spending time on yourself.