Individual Artists Support Committee Report | March 2013

New Members:

We welcomed Tony Grant of the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Vincent (Vinnie) Murphy of the Tanne Foundation, Melissa Franklin of The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, and David Terry of the New York Foundation for the Arts to GIA’s Individual Artists Support Committee. The committee now comprises eighteen representatives of organizations that support individual artists nationally.

Our winter meeting focused on representing, sharing, and understanding our work to support artists.

Communicating our Cause:

At nearly every meeting, we review conference and panel proposal opportunities with the goal of proposing sessions that include artists and keep their concerns front and center. We discussed the inclusion of artists at the Americans for the Arts conference and learned about a panel for that conference organized by Heather Pontonio of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, called “The One About Helping Artists to Succeed,” for an intended audience of local art agencies. We discussed our hope of having more panels related to artists and featuring artists represented at future conferences.

We continued our ongoing discussion about creating a blog in which more timely announcements and topics can be shared in our special interest area on GIA’s web site. Our goal is to reach beyond the members of our committee and create a more open dialogue among funders who support, or who are interested in supporting, individual artists.

We also formed a subcommittee to consider ways to create short online “white papers” on subjects important to our interest area. At the 2012 conference, during a breakfast roundtable session, we learned that there is a need for information-sharing on the subject of the various models for selecting artists for awards and grants. The subcommittee will work to address this topic in 2013.

Research on the Support of Individual Artists:

The bulk of our winter meeting focused on the Artist Support Benchmarking Initiative: Field Scan Preliminary Report, September 2012.

For several years, GIA members who fund individual artists have noted the lack of sector-wide data on artist support, especially the lack of a common taxonomy to explain the different forms of artist support, and lack of benchmark data to track artist support. Recognizing that this a complex picture, and that support comes in may forms and from diverse sources, GIA is undertaking a research project over the next few years to develop a system of tracking support to individual artists. This stream of information will complement GIA’s longstanding work in benchmarking arts funding overall, and will assist arts funders in better understanding the ecology of artist support and how to improve and expand their practices in providing support to individual artists.

Stakeholders want a better understanding of what kind of support is being given to whom, and how the giving is geographically distributed. Information on the intent and purpose of the support, as well as the amount being allocated for each purpose, is seen as very valuable. There is strong interest in understanding patterns of regional or state-based artist support. Both funders and organization leaders hope to gain the ability to examine their efforts in a regional and national context. There is a broad desire to ensure that the picture of artist support is inclusive of traditional, folk and craft artists, as well as new forms. Funders feel that the data gathered will improve their ability to be more strategic in their support of artists, and they see this initiative as providing an important tool to improve grantmaking practices.

Individual Artists Support Committee

'Both funders and organization leaders hope to gain the ability to examine their efforts in a regional and national context.' I would add, international context. American cultural philanthropy often limits itself to initiatives within the United States, disregarding that artists are very powerful ambassadors for international understanding and respect. The United States is a world power whose philanthropic institutions often ignore realities overseas. The federal government actively restricts visas for international artistic exchanges. The role that artists can play in establishing respect and understanding among cultures should not be underestimated. American cultural institutions should be looking from a global perspective, not 'regional and national.'

—Taylor Van Horne, Director, Sacatar Foundation, which supports international artists of all disciplines through eight-week residencies in Bahia, Brazil. www.sacatar.org

re: international grantmaking activities

Great point, Taylor. As I'm sure you know, there are many grantmakers within GIA that are investing in international activities and exchanges – from Art Matters' grants to US artists to travel abroad and engage in social practice art, to the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts' support of the Caravansarai project, to the NEA's funding for the Alliance of Artists Communities' residencies for Arab writers, to the Cleveland Foundation's Creative Fusion program for international artists. And likewise, there are some incredible philanthropic efforts that are focused on a specific community or region within the US, knowing that resources are limited and not all funders can reach all constituents. Many of these local, regional, and national philanthropic efforts are still informed by a global perspective, even if they do not include international activities, so I would be cautious to make this an either/or matter.

All that being said, your point about the potential for artists to shape international understanding cannot be overstated and I would love to consider how the grantmaking community can do more to encourage and invest in this work.

—Caitlin Strokosch, Executive Director, Alliance of Artists Communities