Stories

The text used in the assessment tools are great descriptors, but its stories that bring this work to life. 

Below is a growing portfolio of stories from artists and advocates from across the country that can be filtered on the assessment tools, spectrum, and categories.  You can turn on and off these filters by clicking on the buttons. 

Use these examples to help locate yourself on the assessment tool and see how to move up on the spectrum. Read our Guidebook for more suggestions on how you can use Artists Thrive, putting the tools to practice, and sparking conversations with Artists Thrive.

Have a story of your own to add?   Click here to submit it.

Staff Retreats for Reflection and Strategic Development

In the past year, Chicago Artists Coalition has initiated a series of internal staff retreats, each fostering a collaborative space and time for reflection and strategic development. Over a potluck lunch, staff members think through how to innovate within preexisting programs, explore new opportunities and partnerships across sectors and within the arts community, overcome obstacles, and ensure that we affirm the organization's mission in all aspects of our work. Maintaining this ongoing internal conversation and its documentation (often on the office walls) provides an readily available reference point for all staff members in both day-to-day operations, programmatic development, and evaluation.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Organizational Capacity

Increased Revenue from Increased Capacity

We went in the past year from having a full time executive director and a part time clay studio manager at ten hours a week, and then a part time operations manager at about fifteen hours a week to doubling the clay studio manager’s hours. Part of that was funded by a state arts organization operating support grant, but part of it was funded on the hunch that it would lead to increased revenue and be able to sustain itself. What it did was lead to increased revenue, but in a way we didn’t expect. We expected it to mean that she would teach more classes and that would bring in more revenue. In fact, her schedule all of a sudden didn’t allow her to teach classes, so that twenty hours a week had to be more general planning and administrative work, which is great because then I had a colleague as the director. And the way it increased revenue was her presence in our clay studio made it this this magnetic place that people wanted to be. So we are now at capacity with the number of people renting space in our clay studio. That’s leading to increased revenue in a couple different ways, and it’s directly due to increasing her position. So now we’re looking at other ways to grow some divisions that have momentum and promise to be self-sustaining.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Organizational Capacity

Very Entrepreneurial in Our Approach

We have been able to build our capacity by first building our program offerings to the community, and then by capitalizing on that success. That has enabled us over the years to get the funding for the awards program and other programs. Over those five years our staff went from a single full-time position and two part-time positions to now four full time and three part time positions. Our core budget has doubled in size over that same time, even during the recession. So, our organization has been able to do a lot more, but it is because we have been very entrepreneurial in our approach. We have made sure that when we look at our programming scope that we’re adding things that will fill a need and that people will respond to.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Organizational Capacity

Success from Connecting Programs to the Broader Community’s Goals

We’re unique as a local arts agency. We were created by the city, but we were never a city department. All funding besides the 1% for art funding model that we manage for our city, we independently fundraise. In the last seven years, we’ve been able to significantly grow our programming and the number of our staff, where we are currently at eight FTE’s and an annual budget around about $1.2 million dollars. A lot of that work has been achieved by having direct conversations with our local creative community. We hear what they need and what they want, and then we build programming around that and connect it to the broader community’s goals. In addition, planning plays a critical role in our ability to move that forward. We were hearing from many larger funders that investment wasn’t made in a community that didn’t have a cultural plan that was adopted by the city. So, we went out, raised funds for that, and then executed that. Had it formally adopted by the city, and we went beyond the traditional cultural community into the east central city neighborhoods. We invited their residents to talk about what their needs were – again in direct dialogue – and how they saw their opportunities and weaknesses playing out. We integrated those reports into the overall plan to help build the capacity of the smaller neighborhood groups to demonstrate that they were affiliated with this effort. We’ve also, at the same time, facilitated a region-wide economic impact of the arts plan. It was community action – engaging people and getting them out and participating in the arts – backed up with the hard data. That was what was needed to demonstrate the value of the arts during a recession, and those two components combined has really helped build our capacity and organization.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Organizational Capacity

Working on Our Own Leadership Development

Our staff includes four people – so we’re tiny. Three of the four of us are artists. The work that we’ve done internally is around our own leadership development and training. I think the biggest thing that we have done most recently is that we worked in partnership on our strategic plan. It was an eighteen-month process, and I think it really galvanized what our mission, what our objectives are, and how we can strategize to accomplish those. That was a kind of paradigm shift and it has provided great clarity to our team around the role and the desired intent of our agency. I think the reason that it is as powerful as it is for us as a small team is that it was so fully informed by organizations, agencies, individual artists, and cultural leaders all across the state.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Organizational Capacity