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.

Funding Artists to Experiment & Collaborate

In addition to having artists from our studios do smaller projects, we have four big projects that have many, many artists involved. They each have $15,000 to spend to build, curate, and hire for this large exhibition at the festival. It’s very exciting, but it’s also important because it gives these artists an opportunity to try experiment and collaborate with new people, or to strengthen collaborations they have. They also get to showcase all different kinds of local and regional talent.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Funding Individual Artists

Streamlined Micro-grants for Experimentation

I was presenting at a conference where they were doing a lighting round of grant proposals and awards. The figures involved were modest: $400-$800. But they had artists who had applied get up to give a two-minute pitch, and then at the end of it based on how the audience felt, they awarded these small grants to the artists with the idea of no strings attached. There was no follow-up reporting that they had to do. All they asked was that whatever they did, they credited the organization. I found that following up on a number of the artists that received those, it let them do projects that weren’t necessarily of huge career importance, but were something that they were just able to experiment with.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Funding Individual Artists

Sharing the Power of Community

So, sharing of power – or economic advantages – of two artists opening brick and mortar businesses in the same building and allowing each of them to build off of the other’s capital to make sure that they are financially secure is an example that could be held up. I think sharing in the power of voice. For example: when a burgeoning food truck movement was happening and policy came forward that was deemed restrictive and in favor of the brick and mortar restaurant culture in the community. A lot of the visual and performing artists came out to share their power to advocate on behalf of the start-up food truck business in the community. I think sharing in power, being willing to testify for how folks have directly benefitted from arts activity and how that’s led to business development in front of government, business, and other elected officials is a demonstration. We’re now looking at the youth that have at one point come through any one of those programs as a pipeline for leadership and individuals. A couple of those individuals are in the middle of a pilot program that have come from a couple of the center city neighborhoods. We’re actually sharing power with them by making them the programmatic lead in their community. So, it’s a leadership development program for these folks, but it’s sharing the power of community. There is an identity by and with the people that live in this highly localized community.

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

Artist Advisory Committees Develop Policy

We have advisory committees that incorporate many individual artists. In their advisory committees, it’s really an act of shared power, especially when you consider their contributions to helping our state agency develop our policy, our programs, and our strategic plan. The individual artists are pretty critical to us as far as being a guiding force in how we’re building our programs and being responsive to how we’re being in the field. Additionally, we have a number of individual artists on our council and on that level – on a state and national level – and their influence is welcomed and encouraged and regarded. We’ve developed a Native Leadership Cohort as well as an expanding Native arts advisory team. It consists of many individual artists, and they play a role in shaping the Native arts program so that they are culturally relevant in addressing issues around de-colonization. How a state arts agency can go about doing that is really, really significant.

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

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

Artist Fellowship Has Long-term Impact

Another artist who lives in the western part of the state also received an individual award from the arts council, which he used to buy equipment to update his studio. He’s a custom wood furniture maker – very contemporary furniture. His work is beautiful and is in collections all over the world. Before his involvement with the arts council, he was about to go out of business because he was at the point where he couldn’t figure out how to continue making a living as an artist and promote himself the way he needed to in order to be able to stay in business and work how he wanted to work. When he learned about the arts council and began to take advantage of many of the arts council’s services, he applied for a fellowship. He basically has credited all of that string of events plus the fellowship together with not only saving his business, but also growing his sales by 400%, thus demonstrating the value of investing directly in individual artists.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Funding Individual Artists

Artist Trust Public Commitment to Organization-wide Racial Equity

Artist Trust exists to bolster the work of all artists throughout Washington State. Ensuring artists of all backgrounds and identities are included in our cultural narrative is central to having an accurate and fair depiction of our society. Artist Trust recognizes and is committed to addressing historical and ongoing disparities in access to institutional funding, recognition, business practices, and job opportunities. Our Equity statement is a part of our Who We Are page on our website and shares more about the concept of racial equity and shifting paradigms, as well as detailing what Artist Trust has done, is doing, and will continue to do as we work to develop stategies for addressing socio-cultural and economic barriers for artists at all intersections of identities. 

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

Americans for the Arts Statement of Cultural Equity

This Americans for the Arts Statement represents the culmination of a year of work and consultation with members, advisory council members, stakeholders in the arts field, board, staff, and partners throughout the nonprofit sector. In addition to our new Statement on Cultural Equity, this link also includes some supporting materials about our process and goals.

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

Grantmakers in the Arts Racial Equity in Arts Philanthropy

Grantmakers in the Arts recognizes that our society is challenged to overcome a complex web of inequities– racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and ableism among them. All of these forms of discrimination are powerful drivers of unequal individual and group outcomes. However, it is our belief that ALAANA (African, Latino/a, Asian, Arab, and Native American) individuals whose identities intersect with those of other “minority” social statuses often experience compounded mistreatment that is amplified by the interaction of race. With our assessment that racism is one of the most pressing issues of our time, our current priority is working against racism by working toward racial equity in arts philanthropy. As such, the Grantmakers in the Arts' board of directors developed this statement of purpose for their work in racial equity in arts philanthropy with a goal to increase arts funding for ALAANA artists, arts organizations, children, and adults. 

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

Removing Obstacles to Artists Thriving

Jenifer Simon, Director of Programs + Outreach for CERF+, shares what motivates her in working to support artists.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Engaging with Artists

Streamlined and Transparent Funding Process

Heather Pontonio, Art Program Director for the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, shares a previous experience overhauling an individual grant process with an eye to transparency.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Funding Individual Artists

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.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Services and Programs

Engaging Artists in All Our Advocacy Efforts

We try to engage artists in all of our advocacy efforts, especially in helping to inform us about how our funding works for them or against them. It’s an open dialogue between the individual artists and arts organizations and us.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Advocacy

Prototyping Community Ideas

Cindy Ornstein, Director of Arts & Culture for the City of Mesa and Executive Director of the Mesa Arts Center, describes a new initiative funding artists to create prototypes in response to community input.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Community Connections

Advocating for Particularly Vulnerable Artists

Jenifer Simon, Director of Programs + Outreach for CERF+, describes their efforts to ensure that artists who are dealing with disasters have a voice at the table.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Advocacy

Doing Everything in My Power to Make Sure Artists Are Paid

Michael Dickins describes how he strives to be an advocate for artists getting paid for what they do for both himself as an artist and also in his position as a curator and gallery director at a university. He also shares how he is working to build a network of other curators in academic settings to dialogue about the wide variance in pay across the nation and how they can advocate for national standards and practices.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Survive Paying Artists

Paying a Stipend, Not Living Wage

We used to run a carnival in conjunction with a local music festival in town. We would shut down a street and bring in a moving truck that artists programmed. Even though we didn’t necessarily pay the artist for the days they spent at the truck, we paid them a stipend to produce it.

Rubric Spectrum Category
I work with Artists Artists Struggle Paying Artists