Member Spotlight on Arts Council New Orleans

For the month of August, GIA's photo banner features work supported by Arts Council New Orleans. Founded 40 years ago to support the arts and cultural community of New Orleans, Arts Council New Orleans is the region's largest funder for the arts. In 2015, it distributed over $900,000 to southern Lousiana's arts and arts organizations.

GIA: What are you excited about?

ACNO: Today we are re-imagining the role an Arts Council can play in a contemporary context where the traditional role of grantmaker and intermediary is limited in terms of dollars but potentially powerful in terms of leveraging collaborative relationships that propel and position the arts and cultural producers of New Orleans into the center of civic dialogue and collective renewal. This effort includes restructuring our grantmaking to include new categories for the traditional street parading and culture bearers, providing free legal assistance to protect intellectual property rights, and the development of new tools for evaluation and impact with regard to artists working with youth (specifically focused on creating resilience and overcoming trauma).

GIA: The contemporization of the grant-maker and intermediary roles is something many grantmakers are undertaking. How have you found it changes how you operate in the sector?

ACNO: Today, we find ourselves at the center of a new era of art in public space and are venturing forth in partnership with city agencies, developers, and other multi-sector stakeholders to advance the role of aesthetics as a part of the dialogue and solution set with regard to such issues as emergency response, urban lighting, wayfinding, and other ways of creating a landscape of mutual esteem that is community wide, evident, and creative. We do this through innovation and technology initiatives and traditional public art efforts that become hybrid projects with other city agencies.

GIA: Are there particular challenges the Arts Council is encountering?

ACNO: As a grant-maker for the City of New Orleans the funds we distribute represent $1.05 per capita; less than Jackson, Mississippi, and Shreveport, Louisiana, thus our role as a researcher and advocate; making the case for investment is essential. This year we’re employing our grant application process as a data collection methodology, utilizing the data we get from applicants as a window into their profile for financial sustainability and infrastructure resources. While the city does a terrific job of making the cultural economy argument based on jobs and expenditures (a typical economic impact focus) we are concerned with presenting the portrait of need and underscoring the risk that our city faces by being underinvested in our cultural assets. Additionally, the Arts Council has the privilege of making grants as an intermediary for the state in 9 parishes and we hope to partner with the Louisiana Division of the Arts as they make new efforts to understand the cultural landscape and its needs. With a new administration ahead of us in state government, we will need to stay aligned with our partners in carrying the message that marketing Louisiana as a cultural destination is not the equivalent of adequately supporting and valuing the cultural producers and creative artists we celebrate and promote.

Arts Council New Orleans has been a GIA member since 2009.

Learn more about Arts Council New Orleans grant programs.

Photo in post: Wild Woman Karen-kaia "Kahina" Livers of the Guardians of the Flame tribe by photographer Lisa Dubois

You can also visit the photo gallery on our Photo Credits page.